Giving Hydrogen Performance a Shove

Giving Hydrogen Performance a Shove

Like Seinfeld’s Frank Costanza on Festivus, Hyperion chief executive officer Angelo Kafantaris aired his grievances to MotorTrend about the public’s view on hydrogen-powered vehicles.  “(People) think electric is different from hydrogen,” Kafantaris told us in a recent phone interview. “We really need to explain to them that electric is the future and hydrogen is the way to get there, not heavy batteries. ” 

Sometimes, though, it’s better to show than tell, which is what Hyperion hopes to achieve with its forthcoming XP-1 hydrogen-electric vehicle. Unveiled in prototype form, the low-slung XP-1 is Hyperion’s way of showing that hydrogen-electric powertrains offer “all the same benefits of (a) battery-electric vehicle (with) none of the drawbacks. ” 

Speed and Range

If the technical specifications of the XP-1 prototype hold true to the forthcoming production model, then Hyperion’s hypercar certainly achieves its goal of showing off hydrogen’s performance capabilities. According to Hyperion, the all-wheel-drive XP-1 prototype manages a Bugatti Chiron-rivaling run to 60 mph of under 2.2 seconds. Hold the accelerator pedal down long enough, and the XP-1’s proton exchange membrane fuel cell (a type also used in the Toyota Mirai) and its three-speed gearbox allow it to reach a claimed top speed of more than 221 mph. That’s plenty fast, even if it falls short of the 16-cylinder Bugatti’s 261-mph top speed (or the more than 300-mph figure of the Chiron Super Sport 300+).

More impressive, though, is the XP-1’s reported driving range of 1,016 miles. Credit for that figure goes to the car’s claimed curb weight of under 2,275 pounds (a Mazda MX-5 Miata, meanwhile, tips the scales at 2,341 pounds), aerodynamic design, and a generous capacity of hydrogen stored onboard. Hyperion remains mum on the number of kilograms of hydrogen the XP-1 holds, but we’d wager it’s somewhere in the double digits. For reference, the 3,990-pound Hyundai Nexo manages a driving range of 380 miles from its 6.3 kg hydrogen tank. 

Regardless, filling up the XP-1’s hydrogen tank ought to be a quicker affair than charging a battery-electric vehicle. Finding a hydrogen station, however, remains a difficult (if not impossible) task in most places. Hyperion hopes to ease that search (as well as lower the cost of hydrogen) by working with partners to build a network of hydrogen stations throughout the country. How soon this goal is achieved remains to be seen.

Hyperion Fleek

Complementing the XP-1’s straight-line performance and driving range is its striking design. Beautiful, the XP-1 is not, and the car’s exterior look is both busy and incohesive. 

That said, Hyperion’s still managed to create a car that turns heads. Swollen fenders emphasize the prototype’s big wheels and short overhangs, while turbine-like details add drama to the car’s center-mounted exhaust tips and body side trim. Additional visual drama comes courtesy of the XP-1’s rear buttresses that bleed from the fighter-jet-like glass canopy into the body’s sides. Scissor-style doors allow entrance into the cabin, which features gesture controls for operating many of the car’s features. 

With only 300 XP-1s earmarked for production, this hydrogen-powered hypercar will surely be a rare sight. And likely a pricey one, too. The company isn’t ready to talk numbers, yet. (Nor where it plans to build the car, although Hyperion claims it will assemble the XP-1 in the United States.) Nevertheless, we expect the XP-1 to sport a high six-figure sticker price. 

That’s assuming the XP-1 sees the light of day, though. As promising as Hyperion’s hypercar is, it’s still a prototype. Producing a salable vehicle—yet alone a hydrogen-powered car capable of more than 221 mph—requires Festivus-like feats of strength. However, if all goes according to plan, then deliveries of the XP-1 ought to begin in early 2022.

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