- The hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, the N Vision 74, has 670 horsepower, rear-wheel drive, and a range of 370 miles.
- The design is inspired by the car that Giugiaro turned into a Delorean DMC-12, Hyundai Pony Coupe Concept.
- Unfortunately, the automaker has no plans to put the N Vision 74 into production.
The era of the electric battery has already begun, but the big question remains as to what will follow. A large percentage of the auto industry believes BEVs will be the long-term solution. They are, in essence, betting that the issues of range, cost and finding materials for battery packs – and the challenge of recycling old cells – will be answered in time.
However, others believe that battery electric vehicles will only be a temporary solution, which will eventually be supplemented by hydrogen power through fuel cells.
These are not external things. Two of the world’s largest automakers – Toyota and Hyundai – are committed to expensive fuel cell programs, and both have already put hydrogen-powered vehicles into limited production. But these two cars, the Mirai and Nexo respectively, are worthy and unexciting, sure of all but technical. Now meet one that isn’t.
In truth, Hyundai’s stunning N Vision 74 concept isn’t so much a pure hydrogen car as a hydrogen electric car. There are no plans to put it into production with any type of engine. But it looks great, generates up to 690 horsepower through its rear axle, and is perfectly capable of smoking its rear tires while traveling 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 a huge amount of praise online when it was first revealed earlier this year, but the muscular coupe isn’t just a pretty presentation concept. In fact, under its body is the typical hard-working powertrain, which was created long before the idea of turning it into a stylish coupe.
The basic chassis is not Hyundai. Instead, it’s a Kia Stinger. That’s according to Albert Berman, the group’s former head of research and development, and the agitator for Performance Division N. He’s now semi-retired and has the job title “Executive Technical Advisor” — which gives him the ability to provide more behind-the-scenes detail than the company’s PR team wants.
According to Berman, four Stingers have been modified to create what Hyundai calls “Mica Brutus,” one that’s based on an existing car, to pilot a new, high-output system that combines a 62.4 kWh battery and an 85 kWh fuel cell. This power is sent to a pair of 335hp electric motors in the rear, one of which drives each rear wheel. The main objective of the project was actually to help develop the system that regulates the relationship between the two electronic actuators rather than any mechanical connection across the hub.
“We developed a ‘virtual differential’ via software control, and that was quite a challenge for our engineers,” Berman says. But at some point we might think about that. [using] It’s for a special vehicle that needs more power than our modular system can supply with a single motor on each axle.”
Given the group’s more efficient current electrical engineering, it delivers 577 horsepower using separate engines for the front and rear, indicating that there will be some high-performance models in Hyundai’s future.
The muscular N Vision 74 coupe chassis came later, a team work under the leadership of Hyundai’s Executive Vice President of Design, Lee SangYup. Lee knows a lot about making good looking sports cars. Prior to joining Hyundai, he worked for General Motors, Volkswagen and Bentley, with previous credits including Cadillac Sixteen Conceptthe fifth generation Chevrolet Camaro, and the amazing Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6.
The inspiration for the N Vision 74 came from the beginning of Hyundai’s history as an independent manufacturer. After graduating from building Fords under license in the mid-1970s, the company’s first car was the pony sedan. Although designed to offer low-cost transportation in South Korea, and later some export markets, it was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro of ItalDesign.
Desiring something more exciting for the car show booths, Hyundai also commissioned the legendary designer to create the concept of a pony coupe sitting on the same podium. And, not surprisingly, this featured the wedgy pedigree of some of Giugiaro’s most iconic cars from the era, including the Lotus Esprit and Alfa Romeo Alsasud Sprint.
The Pony Coupe never made any production. Since it was going to use an 80-horsepower 1.6-liter Mitsubishi engine and a solid rear axle, that wasn’t a huge loss to the high-performance car world. But with the proficiency of all the great designers, Giugiaro recycled much of it into another new project that began shortly thereafter: the Delorean DMC-12, despite the addition of seagull wing doors. Which is why it’s totally understandable if you’re looking at an N Vision 74 and it makes a sound Huey Lewis The power of love.
Although the N Vision 74 is a nearly 50-year-old inspiration, the N Vision 74 isn’t just a vintage engraving. The basic shape owes a lot to the past, including the abrupt transition between the roof and the rear screen, but the futuristic details abound, the most impressive being the front and rear broken lights.
The N Vision 74 fuel cell comes directly from Hyundai Nexo production, and its relatively low output – the equivalent of 113 horsepower – is not enough to power the rear engines fully. Instead, it sits downstream from the battery pack, effectively acting as a range extender. With a combination of a full-juicy battery and 4.2kg of hydrogen gas it can carry in its dual rear tanks, Hyundai claims the 74 can go 370 miles.
My command was on track in Bilsterberg in Germany, one of the ‘leadership resort’ circuits for the wealthy, though probably the only one in the world constructed on the site of a former British Army ammunition depot. My turn was short, but enough to prove that the N Vision 74 feels brutally fast. For the most part, the 74 drove like an EV, with instant throttle responses and none of the mechanical inertia even on the most powerful combustion engines. But the concept also lacked the sense of fading power common to pure fuel cell vehicles, when the powerpack can only maintain its full production for limited periods. Hyundai claims the car has a time of less than 4 seconds from 0-60 mph, and from the cockpit it definitely feels that fast.
Under braking, it’s less accomplished—the development team thinks the concept weighs around 4,400 pounds, and that was evident when asked to slow down at the end of the longer Pellster Berg straight, the wood-feeling pedal bringing in less lag than I expected. Nor was there a lot of audio drama, with the soundtrack being galloping winds, screeching tires, and the beating of cooling fans that ran steadily to keep powertrain temperatures in check.
However, it felt amazingly stable for something that puts nearly 700 horsepower through its rear wheels, with minimal drama in the slower, tighter corners. Much of this is undoubtedly due to the clever algorithms that control the allocation of torque across the rear axle. Berman admits that the first version of the default differential was “scary, frankly,” but the system seemed to me like a traditional mechanical one.
And while the clever side-to-side torque vectoring undoubtedly helped the N Vision 74 turn, its contribution was invisible — even when the traction control was slowed down enough to allow me to push into the rear breakaway point. (With the system completely deactivated, a development engineer at Hyundai also demonstrated that the car can produce large drift angles, too.)
Unfortunately, there appears to be very little chance that the N Vision 74 will make a production car, despite the massive positive reaction it has enjoyed. The advanced E-GMP architecture that sits underneath Hyundai and Kia’s electric vehicles uses an underfloor battery pack that’s better suited to crossovers and SUVs, potentially ruining the 74’s sleek lines. And creating a gasoline version on the Stinger platform wouldn’t really keep pace with forward-looking technology.
The role of the N Vision 74 is evidence of Hyundai’s commitment to a hydrogen-powered future, a role that will be developed alongside the advanced electric vehicles the company is already bringing to market.
“EV is not a temporary technology, and it will stay there. Obviously for cars, electric vehicles are hard to beat,” Berman says. “But my line of reasoning is easy: If we want the world to become carbon neutral, we will need millions of tons of hydrogen in all aspects of the society. And if you do, it doesn’t matter if you put that in cars, trucks, or buses. I suspect Mr. Putin gives us a very good lesson Not relying too much on any single source of energy.”
“What is the best synergy for the power grid? Hydrogen, it is clear,” he adds. “You can store it, you can use it when you need it, you can take it everywhere. It’s like milk and cheese, milk is like energy from the grid – you use it or it explodes. Hydrogen is like cheese – stored energy that lasts. It’s going to be part of the future, and that’s inevitable.” .
For now, the N Vision 74 is the kind of future we can all get behind.
Share your thoughts on The future of fuel cell technology And Hyundai’s continued interest in the technology in the comments below.
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