WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Hydrogen or electric cars? The technology that wins will be determined by the one with the most accessible charging and fuelling infrastructure…
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Over the past few years there’s been a huge buzz around electric vehicles, but this year, slowly and surely hydrogen powered vehicles are starting to get their day in the Sun. Now, after the recent unveiling of everything from hydrogen powered long distance drones that can cross oceans and flying taxis to semi-trucks, California based company Hyperion has finally released images, video and some details about its wild looking XP-1 hydrogen supercar – the first fuel cell performance car. And forget the Lucid Air’s 517-mile range, this electric beast will go more than a thousand miles on a tank of H2.
The company says that the hydrogen storage systems are all carbon fiber and feed a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) hydrogen fuel cell which creates all the electric power to drive the monsters four wheels and accelerate it from 0-60 mph in a blistering 2.2 seconds with a top speed of over 220mph mph (356 km/h).
There’s also an ultracapacitor of undefined specification hooked up to the drive system as well. This can act as highly efficient buffer storage for regenerative braking, as well as offering monster boost power rates when you drop the hammer – but Hyperion states the XP-1 will “consistently and reliably provide peak performance over extended driving sessions” on the road and track, so it’s pretty clear the fuel cell will be a high-power unit.
Frustratingly, there are no peak power figures as yet, but the company’s willing to put out a curb weight figure of less than 2,275 lb (1,032 kg), which makes this thing a feather weight in the supercar or hypercar classes.
The chassis will be a monocoque made from a Carbon-Titanium mash up and the swoopy bodywork will be Titanium reinforced composite. The underbody diffuser will be Kevlar reinforced composite, and the XP-1 will run big carbon-ceramic brakes – although pundits wonder if they’ll get a chance to warm up given how powerful the regeneration system should be. Wheels are 21 inches at the front, 22 at the rear, with the option of carbon composites.
The Carbon-Titanium accented interior will also be dominated by a colossal 98-inch curved touchscreen, and if you don’t want to touch it, there will be a gesture control system as well. The seats will be carbon fiber as well, and covered in hand-stitched leather. And as for the cars outrageous looks, as you can see it’s absolutely mind blowing and one of the most aggressively out there and futuristic designs we’ve seen for a while – from the wild gold-ringed vortex air ports on the front, back and sides to the huge clear-panel roof and some truly nutty rims.
The most prominent feature, of course, is the loopy black ribbons extending up from the rear, curling down over the hips and wrapping through to terminate under the upward-opening doors. And these, apart from making the XP-1 look uncomfortably close to the Bugatti Chiron from several angles, are another trick up this car’s sleeve.
They’re solar panels. And they don’t just sit there, Hyperion says they can articulate to follow the sun. Why? So they can feed a little charge into the ultracapacitor on the rare occasion you park it outside.
Ever since electric cars first started appearing, people have been asking why there aren’t solar panels on top of them – and that’s now changing with the advent of new commercial solar powered cars from companies including Hyundai, Light Year One, and Toyota, but nevertheless here’s a quick back of the envelope for you on what the panels on the XP-1 might achieve. I’ve got 21 large, 2020-model solar panels on top of my house. I’d say the entire photovoltaic surface on the XP-1 might expose about as much as a single one of these panels to the Sun.
Over the course of a good day, one of my panels will pull in somewhere around 1.5 kWh, which is about enough to drive a Nissan Leaf six miles (10 km). So the Hyperion’s gorgeous, curvy solar array seems to us like it’s really mostly about looks. I don’t have a problem with that, they look absolutely nutty and it’s probably not that much more expensive to use photovoltaics than it would be to make the things in carbon anyway.
Without learning more about the hydrogen tech in this monster it’s hard to see where the XP-1 leads to. A thousand-mile range is indeed impressive, but on the other hand, it doesn’t quietly fill itself up while you’re at home the same way a battery car will, and there will be plenty of parts of the world where even a thousand mile range won’t get you to the nearest hydrogen station.
Hyperion also has an aviation division and speaks of using “spaceflight technology pioneered by NASA,” which means that one day they might even unveil a flying version of this car, or an eVTOL project like Skai’s flying taxi I mentioned earlier.
For now though the company is committing to building 300 of these XP-1 beasts, and it’s easy to see how they’d be a welcome addition to many collectors’ garages.