- hyperion motors has been working on a hydrogen-powered hypercar for almost 10 years, saying it's building the car in part to promote a hydrogen energy infrastructure.
- the hyperion xp-1, coming in 2022, has a claimed 2.2-second zero-to-60-mph time and a 221-mph top speed. it also offers 1000-plus miles of range before refueling.
- hyperion says it plans to build its own network of refill stations for hydrogen cars similar to the tesla supercharger network for evs.
the way angelo kafantaris sees it, the hyperion xp-1 isn't a big deal. that might seem like an odd view, coming from the ceo of a company that's debuting a 221-mph exotic car after nearly a decade of development. but the xp-1, with its claimed 2.2-second zero-to-60-mph time and carbon titanium monocoque chassis, is akin to a signal flare blasted skyward to draw attention to a less sexy but vastly more important topic: energy infrastructure. specifically hydrogen, which is what the xp-1 uses for energy storage in lieu of a battery. "there are enough car companies," kafantaris says. "we’re an energy company that’s building this car to tell a story."
and the story with hydrogen, right now, is that it's a regional oddball, an offbeat option for californians who want to out-tech their tesla-driving neighbors with a toyota mirai. the benefits of hydrogen have always been clear—quick refueling and an essentially infinite supply, assuming you have a source of electricity to crack off your h atoms. the drawbacks are infrastructure and expense. most of us don't live anywhere near a hydrogen filling station, and the mirai's sub-$400-per-month lease rates almost certainly don't reflect the cost of its fuel cell or its carbon-fiber storage tank.
hyperion plans to address the infrastructure problem first, building its own fueling stations in something akin to tesla's supercharger network. except hyperion won't need as many stations, because hyperion says the xp-1 offers more than 1000 miles of range (1016 miles, at a mix of 55 percent city and 45 percent highway driving). squeezing more range out of batteries is an incremental process; to double the range of a fuel-cell car, you just use a bigger tank. that's just one of the advantages that kafantaris hopes will help convince the general public that hydrogen is the best battery out there.
"hydrogen gives you all the benefits of electric power with lower weight," he says. "you could race it, because hydrogen doesn’t care about heat. and you can make hydrogen from excess grid solar power. creating hydrogen is greener than making batteries." hyperion quotes the xp-1's curb weight at less than 2275 pounds, a number in line with the most feathery of internal-combustion sports cars.
but what about safety? kafantaris says that's a solved problem. "you can throw our tanks off a building or shoot them with a high-powered rifle. they won't rupture." but they are expensive, using plenty of carbon fiber. right now, with a car like the xp-1, that doesn't matter. but if hydrogen is to become our default means of energy storage, the expense curve will need to follow that of evs, and then some. there's a plan for that. and maybe, we discern, for infrastructure beyond the gas-station refueling model. like, what if you could plug in your hydrogen car and have it refill its own tank, cracking hydrogen off the molecule of your choice? then you wouldn't need refueling stations. all you'd need is a plug.
speculation aside, the xp-1 is slated to go into production in 2022, with a limited run of 300 cars. it'll have all-wheel drive, with a three-speed transmission and ultracapacitors to buffer the output of the fuel cell. the body includes active aero elements that double as solar panels. the double-barrel exhaust stacks are functional—but all that comes out is deionized water vapor. it's the kind of wild machine you'd expect from someone who used to be innovation group manager at mattel, in charge of dreaming up hot wheels cars—which was one of kafantaris's former roles.
"people just expect the future to be better," kafantaris says. "but it won’t be unless you do something about it now."