Why Hyperion’s CEO Is So Hyped About the New Hydrogen-Powered XP-1—and Its 1,000 Miles of Range
In conversation with Angelo Kafantaris it is clear that the man has a great vision. As CEO of the technology start-up Hyperion Motors, he relies heavily on the most common element in the universe, hydrogen. NASA's Hyperion-related fuel cell technologies, in which Neil Armstrong was fired to the moon and back with hydrogen, developed the FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) solution for the XP-1 hypercar, which was first introduced last August. While Kafantaris can't get into the details of the powertrain just yet, he promises his machine will have a range of more than 1,000 miles with no emissions, a top speed of 221 mph, and a speed of 2.2 seconds between zero and 60 mph will exhibit.
Of course, without details, it is difficult to separate the XP-1 from the vaporware. Compound the problem with many people rejecting the real viability of hydrogen, as exemplified by the common sarcastic line: "Hydrogen is and always will be the fuel of the future."
However, the fact is that things are changing quickly. A few months ago, Hyundai delivered its first ten XCIENT fuel cell trucks to Switzerland. 1,600 are due by 2025. There are already 1,000 fuel cell buses in China. Germany is building the world's first hydrogen station for passenger trains and has provided at least EUR 9 billion (more than USD 11 billion) in its Covid-related economic stimulus packages for the development of hydrogen-related technologies. The Netherlands, Australia, Portugal and Japan all announced accelerated hydrogen strategies during the pandemic. San Francisco ordered hydrogen-based ferries, and mega-retailers Amazon and Walmart were already switching to hydrogen-powered forklifts in their warehouses.
The FCEVs are therefore strongly represented, at least in the areas of long-distance and last-mile transport. The question, however, is not their commercial viability, but the consumer market. However, the three divisions of the Hyperion companies - Hyperion Energy, Hyperion Motors, and Hyperion Aerospace - promise to individually address these issues from hydrogen production to storage. We spoke to Kafantaris specifically about their most impressive green product, the XP-1.
Explain the NASA connection.
The core technology was developed with a number of NASA veterans. We are using NASA technology and bringing it to commercialization. For example, there is solar technology on the vehicle wing that can articulate and adjust the movement of the sun. It also creates downforce and gives you great side-to-side cornering. Of course, it [the XP-1] has the 1,000 mile range - which we all love - and the quick refueling. It has a very elegant, Tony Stark-like surface in the vehicle. It can control gestures, and that's going to be a technology we'll take to another level in future iterations.
As for the other details of the car, there will be different iterations. Some of them will be more in tune with what we call the base model, and others will be a "space package" that will be the ultimate version that achieves the most ridiculous metrics and performances we could possibly achieve. In other words, we want this car to be not only a showcase of hydrogen technology, but also of American innovation through America's greatest advances over NASA technology.
What are some of the other forms of innovative technology?
There is a technology that converts wasted heat energy back into electrical energy at several points in the vehicle. There is a memory technology that is again very proprietary so I can't go into too much detail, but essentially, from a consumer perspective, the car has a very long range and a very good zero to 60 [mph]. .
How does the hydrogen-based powertrain behave in terms of performance compared to the battery?
Whenever you test a battery car, you are always impressed with the acceleration. Until you hit the brakes and try to take a corner you like: "Wait a minute, what's going on here? This is extremely difficult, why am I throwing so much weight around?" [With the XP-1] you have all of the great things about battery technology that have been developed but then eliminate the weight penalty.
If you have a vehicle that is going to be very light it can work a lot better. And if it's a technology that, unlike batteries, performs well in hot and cold conditions, this is the race for you. We definitely want to show the vehicle what it can do with range and performance - it's a hypercar in the truest sense of the word. It has a weight distribution that is biased towards the rear. All of the power comes from the rear engines. It's fun to drive a car. I had too much fun with this car in our parking lot and also on the track. There's a sound, get ready for it. That's a great thing about hydrogen; You will hear something that sounds like a dragon clears its throat every time you hit that gas.
Did you announce the prices?
We do not have that. And that's because at the start of this journey we actually wanted to deliver a really affordable vehicle that would better match what you might find in a [BMW] i8 price range. We thought this was necessary in order for the story to be told properly, so that people wouldn't discount it as a technology that was too expensive and unrealistic. The reality is that it can be built very cheaply, but we kept adding features thinking, "Let's make the ultimate version." And now, with all of the NASA technology that's piling up there, it's an expensive seven-figure vehicle. However, we'll be doing a few others very quickly that are more affordable.
Do you mean cheaper versions of the same two-seater with a mid-engine or completely different models?
In the future there will be a cheaper version that is two-seater, but that is not currently required. When we talk about cheaper versions, we are talking about different types of vehicles that you would love to drive with your family.
I think it's important to note that we don't aspire to be a car company. We strive to develop the most advanced technology that can be applied to a number of businesses in these industries, and we want to help these industries grow in the directions they haven't yet grown in.
It sounds like you want to be a leader in FCEV technology - create technology and license it to others, right?
I think it's close. I think instead of licensing, I would say that we want to work with other companies with more expertise in these areas so that we don't get distracted from the core technology. You go to automakers to build a car when you want to build it in bulk. We want to maximize the input we can have in the world by only providing what makes us unique: cutting-edge technology originally developed for space travel, and then also bringing energy solutions that the world desperately needs to reduce greenhouse gases reduce.
So possibly will you be working with an established OEM to become their FCEV powertrain supplier while you build stations and develop storage and distribution solutions?
That's basically the idea. However, there are three departments [of the company]: one is the engine department, one is the aerospace department, and one is the energy division. Any division of Hyperion into these different sectors will work with a key player in the field so that it has more reach, can do more, and faster, and not get stuck trying to reinvent the wheel.
The product is very important to us. We believe that good design and technology go hand in hand to tell a great story, and we believe we did that here. And most of all, we are proud that after eight and a half long years we are finally able to share our journey through the vision of this car. Stay tuned for more, it's just the beginning. The potential of hydrogen is really limitless.
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