Hydrogen cars: attempt number two. Opinion

Hydrogen cars: attempt number two. Opinion

One of my very first articles for ITC.ua was published in 2014 and dealt with the vision of the future of the automotive world . Then I frankly relied on electric cars, but not on hydrogen cars. You see the story yourself: a lot of new mass-produced electric vehicles against the backdrop of piece hydrogen models. But they also do not stand still: over the past couple of years, several interesting ideas around hydrogen transport have appeared in the world at once. What are the ideas? And what do they carry with them? Now I’ll tell you.

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BMW iX5 Hydrogen: classic hydrogen car, simply modern

Once upon a time, BMW was quite actively working on hydrogen cars – for example, the BMW 7-series sedan was created. And the most surprising thing was that he had a V12 engine under the hood: it was a traditional internal combustion engine that simply burned hydrogen instead of fuel. However, BMW moved further towards electric cars, and when it returned to the topic of hydrogen cars, it did it in partnership with Toyota: in fact, the companies exchanged technologies, I will tell you more below. And the new BMW hydrogen cars were built according to the classical scheme – using hydrogen fuel cells (fuel cells), which generate electricity for the electric motor. As a result, using the example of the new BMW iX5 Hydrogen crossover, we can study a sort of “classic” design of a hydrogen car.

The centerpiece of this design is the fuel cells, where a chemical reaction takes place between hydrogen (from the tanks in the car) and oxygen (from the ambient air). The product of the reaction is water and electricity – the latter is sent to an electric motor that rotates the drive wheels. But there is also a small battery in the path of electricity, which is necessary to feed the electric motor during sharp accelerations: a sort of “booster”. As a result, such a scheme allows you to make cells less power (in the case of the BMW iX5 Hydrogen, this is 125 kW) than the final peak power of the electric motor can be (in the case of the BMW iX5 Hydrogen, this is 275 kW or 374 hp) – anyway, the latter is needed only for a short time and an intermediate battery will help with this.

The BMW iX 5 Hydrogen crossover uses a hydrogen system based on fuel cells and the fifth generation eDrive electric motor. Hydrogen (6 kg) is stored in two tanks, a small intermediate accumulator is provided. In fact, this is a standard scheme for building hydrogen cars, just with the most modern components to date.

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NamX HUV: replaceable cells for hydrogen

Another crossover, another hydrogen car. At first glance, everything is familiar to a startup: fuel cells, rear or all-wheel drive, plans to release a production model in 2025. What is interesting and unique?

The fact that the NamX HUV hydrogen car implements the idea of replaceable hydrogen cylinders! At the same time, the design also already provides for a standard fixed tank – the total total power reserve (stationary tank plus replaceable cylinders) can reach 800 km! Moreover, the cylinders can be quickly replaced, purchased over time, transferred for use in another hydrogen car.

The NamX HUV crossover offers the idea of additional interchangeable hydrogen tanks. The creators promise to prepare a serial version of the model by 2025 and launch sales at a price of 65 to 95 thousand euros.

Peugeot e-Expert Hydrogen: electric car + hydrogen car

As mentioned above, a hydrogen car usually has an electric motor and an intermediate battery – in this way its design is similar to an electric car. But what if we develop this idea? So the French from Peugeot decided and created a serial Peugeot e-Expert Hydrogen van. It is built on the basis of the electric version of the Peugeot e-Expert: there is a 100 kW (136 hp) electric motor, charger, traction battery. However, the capacity of the latter is only 10.5 kWh – this is only enough for 50 km of run.

But if you need more, then three tanks with hydrogen (4.4 kg) and fuel cells come into play. As a result, the total power reserve reaches about 400 km, refueling with hydrogen takes only three minutes. Recall that in the range of Peugeot there is also a standard e-Expert electric van, but its maximum range is only 330 km, and after that it requires a long charge. The hydrogen version allows you to increase the driving distance and quickly fill up the tanks for a new long trip. The solution is frankly niche – but Peugeot considered that this niche still exists.

Peugeot e Expert Hydrogen : part electric car, part hydrogen car. By the way, where Peugeot is, there are other related models (for example, Opel ): here it is, technological connection in the automotive group!

Pininfarina Viritech Apricale: hydrogen supercar

A unique and exclusive supercar – only 25 of these are to be produced (production starts in 2024), it is based on a carbon fiber monocoque, the power reaches 800 kW (1088 hp), and it was developed by Pininfarina and Viritech specialists. The latter company is working on the Tri-Volt power plant: this is the most interesting point in the design.

Instead of building a sequential “fuel cell – battery – electric motor” scheme, in the case of Pininfarina Viritech Apricale, these three elements can be connected to each other in any order: create pairs or a trinity. So you can reduce the intermediate booster battery – for example, there is only 6 kWh, while the battery operates with a voltage of 800 volts.

Hydrogen supercar Pininfarina Viritech Apricale is interesting not so much in design as in technology: if the idea works, Viritech will sell the technology to other automakers.

Toyota GR Yaris H2: technology from the past – for the future

It’s not just that at the beginning of the material, BMW was mentioned and its cooperation with Toyota in matters of hydrogen cars. When BMW switched to using fuel cells, Toyota started building hydrogen internal combustion engines!

We are talking about a 3-cylinder engine G16E-GTS, which is installed under the hood of the hot hatchback Toyota GR Yaris H2. Such a motor promises a power of 272 hp. when burning gasoline, hydrogen will already be 80-90% of the nominal values. Although the use of hydrogen promises something else: such a mixture ignites faster, which should provide a sharp reaction to the addition of the gas pedal. In addition, the vibrations and sound of a traditional internal combustion engine are preserved – all this is important for a hot hatch. At the same time, carbon dioxide emissions are drastically reduced (-90%): to the delight of European and American lawmakers. So far, everything looks like just a bold experiment, right? However, there are already hints of a serial future: a hydrogen internal combustion engine can be installed under the hood of a new generation of the Toyota Prius.

The Toyota GR Yaris H 2 “hot hatchback” is not the first attempt by Toyota to create a hydrogen car with an internal combustion engine: the first-born was the Toyota Corolla Sport model with a similar engine, which even took part in endurance races. The results are average, we need to work on increasing power and reliability, but we have already managed to cut the time for refueling with hydrogen by half – to three minutes. Until now, BMW has been actively working on hydrogen cars with internal combustion engines – back in the 2000s.

As a result: the transport of the future – an electric car or a hydrogen car?

For this material, I have specially selected five of the most interesting projects around hydrogen cars. But there are many more of them: for example, there are developments on hydrogen trucks, the debut of the second generation Toyota Mirai , the Renault Scenic Vision concept car with plans to launch a hydrogen version in 2030. I admit: I still bet on electric vehicles. But all of the above examples show that hydrogen cars are too early to write off – now they get a new chance to fight for the title of “transport of the future.”

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