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Climbing behind the wheel of a hydrogen-powered fuel cell muscle car – autoweek.com | Gmx Pharm

  • The N Vision 74 hydrogen fuel cell car has 670 hp, rear-wheel drive and a claimed range of 370 miles.
  • The design was inspired by the car that Giugiaro turned into the Delorean DMC-12, the Hyundai pony coupe concept.
  • Unfortunately, the automaker has no plans to put the N Vision 74 into production.

    The battery electric age is already upon us, but there remains a big question as to what will follow. A significant percentage of the auto industry believes that BEVs will be the long-term answer. Essentially, they’re betting that the questions of range, cost, finding materials for battery packs — and the challenge of recycling old cells — will all be answered in a timely manner.

    Still others believe that battery-powered electric vehicles will only be an interim solution, to be eventually complemented by hydrogen fuel cell propulsion.

    This isn’t outer edge stuff. Two of the world’s largest automakers — Toyota and Hyundai — have committed to hugely expensive fuel cell programs, and both have already produced limited numbers of hydrogen-powered vehicles. But these cars, the Mirai and Nexo respectively, are worthy and unexciting, certainly from everything but a technical point of view. Now you meet one who isn’t.

    In truth, Hyundai’s spectacular N Vision 74 concept isn’t so much a pure hydrogen car as it is a hydrogen-assisted electric vehicle. There are also no plans to mass-produce it with any powerplant. But it looks great, puts out up to 690 hp through the rear axle and is quite capable of smoking the rear tires when driving sideways. There’s also a real reason it looks a bit like a Delorean DMC-12 — and Autoweek drove it.

    The N Vision 74 garnered huge amounts of online praise when it was first unveiled earlier this year, but the muscular coupe isn’t just a pretty show concept. In fact, beneath its bodywork lies a hard-working prototype powertrain that was developed long before the idea of ​​turning it into a stylish coupe.

    The core structure is not a Hyundai; rather it is a Kia Stinger. So says Albert Biermann, former head of the group’s research and development department and initiator of the performance division N. Now semi-retired, he has the job title of “Executive Technical Advisor” – one that gives him the opportunity to share more details behind the scenes, than the company’s PR team would likely expect of him.

    According to Biermann, four Stingers were modified to create so-called “mecha-protos,” which are built on top of an existing car to test a new high-performance system combining a 62.4-kWh battery and an 85-kW fuel cell. These send power to a pair of 335-horsepower electric motors at the rear, one turning each rear wheel. The main purpose of the project was actually to contribute to the development of the system that governs the relationship between the two e-motors instead of a mechanical connection via the axle.

    The N 74’s technology suggests there will be some serious high-performance models in Hyundai’s future.

    “We developed a ‘virtual differential’ using software control,” says Biermann, “and that was a major challenge for our engineers. But at some point we might think about it [using] it for a special car that needs more power than our modular system can deliver with a motor on each axle.”

    Given that the currently most powerful EV architecture of the group offers 577 hp with separate motors for the front and rear axles, it suggests that there will be some serious high-performance models in Hyundai’s future.

    The N Vision 74’s muscular coupé body came later and is the work of a team led by Hyundai’s Executive Vice President of Design, Lee SangYup. Lee knows a lot about making good looking sports cars; Before joining Hyundai he worked for GM, Volkswagen and Bentley, with previous credits including the Cadillac Sixteen Concept, the fifth generation Chevrolet Camaro and the spectacular Bentley EXP 10 Speed ​​6.

    hyundai pony coupe

    The Hyundai Pony Coupé Concept by Giorgetto Giugiaro.

    Hyundai

    The inspiration for the N Vision 74 came from Hyundai’s history as an independent manufacturer from the very beginning. After the company finished building Fords under license in the mid-’70s, the company’s first car was the Pony sedan. Though designed for low-cost transportation in South Korea and later in some export markets, it was designed by ItalDesign’s Giorgetto Giugiaro.

    Wanting something more exciting for car show stands, Hyundai also commissioned the legendary designer to create a pony coupe concept that would sit on the same platform. No wonder this showcased the angular proportions of some of Giugiaro’s most famous cars of the period, including the Lotus Esprit and Alfa Romeo Alsasud Sprint.

    The Pony Coupé was not produced. As it would have used an 80hp 1.6L Mitsubishi engine and a solid rear axle, this wasn’t a huge loss to the high performance car world. But with the efficiency of all great designers, Giugiaro recycled much of it into another new project he began soon after: the Delorean DMC-12, albeit with the addition of gullwing doors. For that reason, if you look at the N Vision 74 and buzz Huey Lewis’s, it’s totally understandable power of love.

    Although its inspiration is almost 50 years old, the N Vision 74 is no retro imitation. The basic shape owes much to the past, including the abrupt transition between the roof and rear window, but there are plenty of futuristic touches, of which the pixelated front and rear lights are the most impressive up close.

    The N Vision 74’s fuel cell comes directly from a production Hyundai Nexo, and its relatively low output – the equivalent of 113 hp – is not enough to fully drive the rear engines alone. Instead, it sits in front of the battery pack, effectively acting as a range extender. With the combination of a fully juiced battery and the 4.2kg of hydrogen gas it can carry in its two rear tanks, Hyundai claims the 74 can go up to 370 miles.

    My ride was at the Bilster Berg race track in Germany, one of those rich people’s race tracks, although probably the only one in the world built on the site of a former British Army ammunition depot. My lap was short but enough to prove that the N Vision 74 feels incredibly fast. For the most part, the 74 drove like an electric vehicle, with instant throttle response and none of the mechanical inertia of even the most powerful internal combustion engines. But the concept also lacked the sense of performance degradation common to pure fuel cell vehicles when the power pack can only maintain full performance for limited periods of time. Hyundai claims the car has a 0-60mph time of under 4 seconds, and it certainly feels that fast from the cockpit.

    Although its inspiration is almost 50 years old, the N Vision 74 is no retro imitation. The basic form owes much to the past, but futuristic details abound.

    Braking is less accomplished – the development team estimates the concept weighs around 4400 pounds, and that felt obvious when asking to slow down at the end of Bilster Berg’s longer straight, as the woody pedal brought less deceleration , than I expected. There wasn’t much aural drama either, as the soundtrack was punctuated by rushing wind, roaring tires and the roar of cooling fans working full throttle to keep drivetrain temperatures under control.

    Still, traction felt amazingly secure for something putting nearly 700bhp through the rear wheels, with minimal drama in slower and tighter corners. Much of this is no doubt due to the clever algorithms that control torque distribution to the rear axle. Biermann admits that the first version of the virtual differential was “scary, to be honest,” but the system felt like a traditional mechanical system to me.


    State of charge ev autoweek


    And while the intelligent side-to-side torque split undoubtedly helped the N Vision 74 turn, its contribution felt invisible—even with traction control relaxed enough that I could push to the rear’s swerving. (With the all-electric system, one of Hyundai’s development engineers also proved that the car can also generate large drift angles.)

    Unfortunately, despite the hugely positive response it has received, the chance that the N Vision 74 will spawn a production car seems very slim. The advanced E-GMP architecture that sits beneath Hyundai and Kia EVs uses an underfloor battery pack best suited for crossovers and SUVs, one that would likely ruin the 74’s sleek lines. Even a petrol version on the Stinger platform would not do justice to the forward-looking technology.

    The role of the N Vision 74 is a testament to Hyundai’s commitment to a hydrogen-powered future that will develop alongside the advanced electric vehicles the company is already bringing to market.

    “EV is not a transitional technology, it will stay out. It’s clear that EV for cars is hard to beat,” says Biermann. “But my way of thinking is simple: if we want the world to become carbon neutral, we need millions of tons of hydrogen in all sectors of society. And if you do that, it’s no big deal to put that in cars or trucks or buses. I think Mr. Putin is giving us a very good lesson not to be overly dependent on single energy sources.”

    “What is the best synergy with grid power? Hydrogen, that’s clear,” he adds. “You can store it, you can use it when you need it, you can take it anywhere. It’s like milk and cheese, milk is like electricity from the grid – you use it or you run out. Hydrogen is like cheese – stored energy that lasts. It’s going to be part of the future, it’s inevitable.”

    For now, the N Vision 74 is the kind of future we can all get behind.

    Share your thoughts on Future of fuel cell technology and Hyundai’s continued interest in the technology in the comments below.

Updated: September 17, 2022 — 12:32 am

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