- hyundai announced today that it is betting big on hydrogen fuel-cell technology for everything from the pictured sports car to robotaxis and large commercial trucks.
- the automaker's "hydrogen wave" announcement came during the iaa auto show in munich, germany.
- the concept fk sports-car prototype appears to have more than a casual similarity to the kia stinger. it is being developed with rimac and will use that specialty carmaker's battery pack, hyundai said.
hydrogen has been the fuel of the future for almost as long as we can remember, but the horizon for its introduction into mainstream cars has never seemed to get any closer. there have been some pioneering, and rarely bought, oddballs like the honda clarity fcev, toyota mirai, and hyundai nexo, all of which were only offered in very limited markets. now hyundai has become the first large automaker to commit itself to a hydrogen future, with the widespread use of fuel cells in passenger vehicles as it moves away from making combustion engines.
hyundai made a multitude of hydrogen-based announcements at this week’s munich iaa auto show, but the highlight is definitely today's confirmation that the brand is working on a new hydrogen-fueled sports car, currently a "mobile laboratory" named the concept fk. the company has released images of a disguised prototype and released some seriously impressive details. we’re told the car will make up to 671 horsepower from what seems to be the pioneering combination of a hydrogen fuel cell powering the front axle and a battery-driven electric motor turning the rear. hyundai says it will be able to dispatch the european zero-to-62-mph benchmark in less than four seconds. that sounds pessimistic given the stated output. the company also says the car will have a range of more than 373 miles, although this number presumably comes from the optimistic european wltp testing protocol.
the new car is being developed in conjunction with ev specialist rimac, as hyundai is one of the automakers that holds a stake in the croatian startup. the concept fk will use a high-output rimac battery pack, presumably related to the one used by the nevera hypercar.
“we are absolutely convinced we are on the right track and we cannot survive with battery technology alone; this is our firm belief," hyundai chief marketing officer thomas schemera said at the auto show. "if you don't change and you don't think about the future to come, you're not going to be able to adapt. the world is changing very quickly.”
hyundai will develop fuel-cell cars alongside battery-powered evs, but will rapidly reduce the number of combustion engines it offers in most markets. the company has confirmed it will only offer ev models in the european market by 2035, and will phase these out everywhere else by 2040.
the company’s other announcements at munich were less exciting, but added extra proof of the scale of its commitment to hydrogen. it says that its third-generation fuel cell, a development of the one in the nexo, will be available in both 100kw (134hp) and 200kw (268hp) versions, with the less powerful version said to be 30 percent smaller than the nexo’s stack. they will also be engineered to deliver substantially better durability. hyundai says the nexo’s fuel cell has a lifespan of around 5000 hours, or 100,000 miles, but says the next generation will be between 50 percent and 100 percent better.
the company is working on hydrogen-powered trucks and buses and also showed what it described as a “trailer drone” in munich, effectively a pair of fuel-cell-powered bogies that can move a truck trailer under autonomous control and with a range of up to 620 miles. the company also showed a lidar-equipped "robotaxi" version of the ioniq 5 at munich, which is claimed to be capable of level 4 autonomy and will use remote human operators if it gets stuck.
hyundai also seems to be planning to prove its new technology through the time-honored expedient of taking it racing. schemera wouldn’t confirm motorsport plans but dropped some very broad hints:
"how many hydrogen race series are there in the world? zero. but maybe in four years things could be different. motorsport is a very good way to prove your technology under extreme conditions," he said. "motorsport can be the way to prove new technology and how reliable it is, and in terms of hydrogen, that makes things interesting because not that many companies have it. we believe our fuel-cell technology is at the forefront."