While almost every major automaker is preparing a raft of BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) launches in the near- to mid-term future, a few are banking on hydrogen FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) models for their carbon neutrality goals. While there are hundreds new BEV launches due in the next five years, a few crucial hydrogen FCEV launches and trials are coming up.
The availability of FCEVs would not improve until enough fueling stations dispense the most abundant element in the universe. However, many manufacturers consider hydrogen as the fuel of the future, an important step in their journey towards carbon neutrality, and assume that the infrastructure will improve to support these vehicle during this decade.
Note that not all vehicles in this list will manage 500 miles of range, and that is simply the upper limit based on what Hyundai’s top boss told the S.Korean president on a plant tour in 2021 regarding the new Nexo, which is the fourth car in our story. Projects like the Defender and Range Rover are not officially confirmed, and hence this is an expected list of models. The article will be updated when new information is available.
BMW Group has been experimenting with limited-production hydrogen FCEVs since 2000 when it launched the BMW 7 Series-based BMW 750hL. In 2021, it converted the fourth-gen BMW X5 into a new hydrogen fuel cell electric model called BMW iX5.
The BMW iX5 uses a hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrain co-developed with Toyota. The vehicle’s drive system converts hydrogen stored in two 700-bar tanks made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic into electricity in a fuel cell. It delivers an electrical output of up to 125 kW (170 PS/168 hp). Unlike some reports claim, this isn’t the world’s most powerful fuel cell stack (among passenger models); the second-gen Toyota Mirai’s 330-cell fuel cell stack generating 128 kW (174 PS/172 hp) claims that title.
The fuel cell stack works together with an electrical motor featuring BMW Group’s fifth-gen eDrive. This motor serves as a generator in coasting overrun and braking phases, charging the traction battery with the energy generated during those processes. The electric motor’s primary function is, of course, spinning the (rear) wheels. It offers a system power of up to 275 kW (374 PS/369 hp).
The iX5 has hydrogen tanks, one in the center tunnel and one under the rear seat. Filling them up takes only three to four minutes, making the refueling experience similar to a gasoline or diesel vehicle. Autocar UK reported from the model’s IAA 2021 debut that the range is 311 miles (500 km).
BMW Group Plant Spartanburg and BMW Group Forschungs- und Innovationszentrumhttps (FIZ) manufacture the BMW iX5 together. The U.S.-based vehicle factory makes the base vehicle for the hydrogen model and ships it to the German R&D center in Munich.
The Munich team fits the vehicles with a new floor assembly that allows for accommodating the hydrogen tanks. It integrates the exclusive 12V and 400V electrical systems, traction battery pack, electric motor, and fuel cell, alongside standard production parts. The fuel cell systems, placed under the hood, come from an in-house competence center for hydrogen located in Garching, north of Munich.
Starting in Spring 2023, BMW Group will use the iX5 as a tech demonstrator in selected regions. The company doesn’t plan to sell this model in showrooms.
Honda CR-V FCEV
A sixth-gen Honda CR-V-based FCEV has received the green signal for production. Production will take place at Performance Manufacturing Center (PMC) in Ohio, the facility that makes specialty vehicles like the Acura NSX.
The Honda CR-V FCEV will be a hydrogen hybrid FCEV, not an ordinary FCEV. It will have a plug-in feature that allows doubling it as a BEV. For example, in places with limited or no hydrogen fueling stations, customers will be able to simply plug it into a charger and use it as a BEV.
It’s safe to assume the battery pack of the Honda CR-V FCEV will be larger than most other fuel cell cars. While we don’t expect it to deliver 300 miles of range, the BEV component will probably be like an emergency range extender. This model will likely be similar to a PHEV, but a combination of an FCEV and a BEV (instead of an internal combustion engine) would make it a zero-emission vehicle.
Honda’s previous announcements indicate that the fuel cell system that goes into the hydrogen-powered CR-V will be a collaborative effort with GM. In fact, at the 18th FC Expo (March 16-18, 2022), a Honda official said that the company is “running a prototype system at Honda R&D’s domestic bases to verify its performance” and is “in close contact with GM’s development staff”, Nikkei xTECH reported on March 18, 2022. This system measures 835 mm x 605 mm x 660 mm and can be placed under the hood of a passenger car, a person in charge said. It produces 80 kW or 107 horsepower.
Ineos Grenadier hydrogen FCEV
Ineos Automotive announced in November 2020 that it partnered with Hyundai Motor Company to develop and test a hydrogen fuel cell variant of the Ineos Grenadier variant. The announcement suggested that the Ineos Grenadier hydrogen FCEV prototype will most likely get the South Korean automaker’s second-generation fuel cell stack, currently on duty in the Hyundai Nexo.
In October 2021, Ineos Automotive made another announcement, in which it revealed the ‘Grenadier FCEV Concept’ as the name of the hydrogen fuel cell prototype. Moreover, the company said that it has partnered with powertrain engineering specialist AVL. The development of the Grenadier FCEV Concept has begun. On- and off-road testing was going to commence by the end of 2022, but it hasn’t. The market launch could take place within a few years, although Ineos Automotive hasn’t confirmed a firm plan to bring the hydrogen FCEV to the market.
2024 Hyundai Nexo
No company outside Japanese OEMs has shown more commitment to FCEVs in recent years than the Hyundai Motor Group. The South Korean conglomerate is likely to launch no less than four models in this category in the next few years, and one of them will be a new Hyundai Nexo. Its mid-term goal is to increase the annual sales of its passenger and commercial FCEVs globally to more than 110,000 units.
Announcing its commitment to become a carbon-neutral brand by 2045 at the 2021 Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA 2021), Hyundai Motor Company confirmed (via HMG Journal) that the new Hyundai Nexo will be a facelifted version of the original model that went on sale in March 2018. This model will arrive in 2024, and it will be about much more than just a cosmetic refresh. In place of the pre-facelift Nexo’s second-gen fuel cell stack, the new Nexo will pack the company’s all-new, third-gen fuel cell stack that will be significantly less expensive.
There will be two versions of the all-new fuel cell stack: 100 kW (136 PS/134 hp) and 200 kW (272 PS/268 hp), and the new Nexo will make use of the 100 kW version, which will be 30% smaller than the second-gen fuel cell stack. Currently, the Nexo can deliver an EPA-est. range of 612 km (380 miles).
Speaking to South Korea’s former President Moon Jae-in (via Office of the President, South Korea) in October 2020, Euisun Chung, Chairman, Hyundai Motor Group, had said that the company plans “to extend it to 800 km (497 miles).“ It’s safe to assume that Chung was referring to the new Nexo coming in 2024.
Note: Future model’s range figures under Korean certificate standard
Hyundai Staria Fuel Cell
The Hyundai Staria Fuel Cell first appeared in a teaser at the end of the Staria’s digital world premiere on April 13, 2021. The same announcement revealed that the launch of the Staria Fuel Cell will come about in the second half of 2023. The MPV could get the 200 kW version of the third-gen fuel cell stack, which is similar in size to the second-gen system but offers double the power. Hyundai Motor Company says that it has designed the 200 kW version for commercial vehicle applications.
Kia FK/Hyundai FK
On September 7, 2021, Hyundai Motor Group unveiled a new concept hydrogen FCEV called just Vision FK at the Hydrogen Wave Forum. The company didn’t reveal the brand, but we’re confident that it’s not a Genesis model. There’s a higher chance of it being a Kia FK (Kia Vision FK), as it looks like a design evolution of the Stinger.
The Vision FK concept is unique compared to all other passenger hydrogen FCEVs we have seen so far. That’s because the two-door sports car is a plug-in hybrid hydrogen FCEV. It clubs a fuel cell energy converter with a plug-in powertrain that powers the rear wheels. With a system power of more than 500 kW, the Vision FK can finish a 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) sprint in less than four seconds. The range is quite impressive, too; HMG expects it to cover a distance of more than 600 km (373 miles).
Albert Biermann, the former President and Head of R&D Division, HMG, says the Vision FK prototype is “a bit of technical overkill,” but at the same time, an exciting challenge for the company’s engineers. The company jointly developed its extremely complicated power electric system with Rimac Automobili, in which it has a 12% stake. Development of all other systems took in-house, though. HMG hasn’t confirmed the launch of a production version, but seeing how the prototype looks far more advanced than simply a design study, it seems like there’s a full interest to bring this car to the market.
Kia Carnival FCEV
Kia is reportedly going all in electrifying the Carnival, planning an HEV, a BEV, and even a hydrogen FCEV model. On September 14, 2022, Maekyung.com reported that Kia plans to start producing hydrogen FCEVs in 2027. It will begin with military applications and launch a Carnival FCEV later, as per the South Korean publication. It seems like the company will start offering a hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrain in the Carnival in its fifth generation, not the current one.
Land Rover Defender Fuel Cell Vehicle
Jaguar Land Rover is considering launching a Land Rover Defender hydrogen FCEV. The British automaker has developed a prototype under ‘Project ZEUS’ for a feasibility study. A fully battery-powered electric variant of the Defender is reportedly also in the works, but a hydrogen fuel cell electric variant could complement it.
Video Source: YouTube/LandRoverNederland
Dr. Pratap Rama presented the Land Rover Defender hydrogen prototype at the ‘Hydrogen and Fuel Cells – Here and Now’ event on June 28, 2022. Back then, Dr. Rama was the Group Leader for Hydrogen Powertrain at Jaguar Land Rover. In September 2022, he became the Senior Manager for Hydrogen Fuel Cells at the company. Zeus is a GBP 17.6 million (USD 21.1 million) project, and GBP 8.7 million (USD 10.5 million) or nearly half of that investment is coming from Advanced Propulsion Centre UK (APC UK).
Gareth Potter, Project Manager – Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle, Jaguar Land Rover, has posted a picture that shows the integration and packaging of the Land Rover Defender FCEV’s core components on LinkedIn. The image, clicked during Dr. Rama’s presentation at the Cenex LCV 2022 on September 7, 2022, shows that pure-electric Defender has an AWD drivetrain layout achieved with two 147 kW motors and a 16.7 kWh battery pack with a power output of 340 kW. The latter lies under the vehicle floor.
Advantages like high energy density, rapid refueling, and minimal range loss in low temperatures are attracting JLR to hydrogen fuel cell technology to convert its larger, longer-range SUVs, including models that customers would use in extreme environments into zero-emission vehicles.
Range Rover FCEV
If Land Rover chooses to deploy a fuel cell system in the Defender for mass production, it could expand its application to the Range Rover. According to a report from Autocar, Nick Miller, the Range Rover Product Chief, has said that the MLA architecture that debuted in the flagship SUV’s fifth-gen model can accommodate a hydrogen powertrain as well.
Featured Image Source: Hyundai Motor Group