IT SEEMS hydrogen fuel cell vehicles mightn’t just be about saving the environment.
Hyundai has expressed an interest in the strong performance potential of hydrogen fuel cell technology, with the boss of the company’s expanding N division, Albert Biermann, saying a hardcore, track-focused hydrogen car is a possibility.
Speaking to Wheels at the Detroit motor show, Biermann said his team is already exploring the performance potential of hydrogen drivetrains, though admitted the programme is still in its infancy.
Biermann says that while electric powertrains are the N division’s focus in the short term, hydrogen is a more logical alternative for the future.
“Hydrogen is just a matter of time,” he said. “The time will come when people [will] understand, ok, EVs [alone] won’t work. Now we are more looking into EV, but yes, hydrogen is definitely on the list.”
Hyundai used this month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to reveal its second-gen hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the Nexo, and Biermann says the knowledge gained from Nexo will be valuable to any future performance variants.
“Now we’re into our second generation car; the powertrain is smaller, more efficient, and a little more powerful,” he said. “We have cars out there, but in pushing the performance right now we’re on the safe side and everything is easy on the durability side”.
The Nexo uses a 95kW hydrogen fuel cell and 40kW battery in combination with a 120kW electric motor to provide a claimed range of 800km.
Biermann says that while those power figures are at the low end of what’s possible, durability and longevity of the fuel cell must be taken into account.
“If you make a fuel cell for N, a lot more ions have to move across the border, through the membrane, so there’s much more traffic. So, how durable?” he said. “How long could that survive, those are the questions that have not been answered yet, but we will look into this.
“This is Hyundai, we give a lot of warranty, an extra warranty on batteries and hydrogen fuel cell stacks, so you need to get experience on the fuel cell – how much can you tune it, how far can you push it and still survive with a good warranty? That’s not an easy thing.”
BMW and Mazda have both explored hydrogen as an alternative fuel in the past, with BMW building a limited run hydrogen-propelled 7 Series in 2005-07. The V12 7 Series used a conventional combustion engine and high-pressure injectors to spray liquid hydrogen into the combustion chambers.