While almost every major automaker is preparing a bunch 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 tens of new BEV launches due in the next four to five years, a few crucial hydrogen FCEV launches are also coming up, which we discuss in this story.
BMW Group has been experimenting with limited-production hydrogen FCEVs since 2000 when it launched the BMW 7 Series-based BMW 750hL. This year, it has converted the fourth-gen BMW X5 into a new 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 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). Filling up the hydrogen tanks takes only three to four minutes, making the refueling experience similar to a gasoline or diesel vehicle.
BMW Group plans to launch the BMW iX5 in limited volumes in 2022.
Next-gen Honda Clarity FCV
Production of the second-gen Honda Clarity FCV (Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Vehicle/Honda Clarity FCX) ended in August 2021. However, the Toyota Mirai rival will return to the market for the third generation.
Honda confirmed in June 2021 that fuel cell technology will continue contributing to its carbon neutrality goal. In July 2021, Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun reported that the company will launch the next-gen Honda Clarity FCV in 2023. The next-gen Clarity FCV’s fuel cell system. will cost a fraction of the second-gen model’s fuel cell system. So, the company could price it lower and offer it in higher volumes. In addition to lowering the cost of the Clarity FCV’s fuel cell stack, it will work on improving its durability.
Ineos Grenadier hydrogen FCEV
Ineos Automotive has partnered with Hyundai Motor Company to develop and test a hydrogen fuel cell variant of the Ineos Grenadier variant. Development has begun, and testing will commence by the end of 2022. 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. The market launch could take place a year or two later, although Ineos Automotive hasn’t confirmed whether it has a firm plan to bring this hydrogen FCEV to the market.
2023 Hyundai Nexo
No company outside Japanese OEMs has shown commitment to FCEVs stronger 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 H2 2023, 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 a range of 609 km (378 miles). Speaking to South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in (via Office of the President, South Korea) in October 2020, Euisun Chung, President, 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 stating the targeted range of the new Nexo coming in 2023.
Note: 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 it’s a product of which of its three brands, but we’re confident that it’s not a Genesis model from the looks of it. There’s a higher chance of it being a Kia FK (Kia Vision FK) than a Hyundai FK (Hyundai Vision FK). It could be a preview of the Kia Stinger successor with a new name and a zero-emission powertrain.
The Visit 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, 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 yet, but seeing how the prototype looks far more advanced than simply a design study, it seems like there’s full intention to bring this car to the market.
Hyundai Motor Group large SUV
HMG plans to launch a large hydrogen fuel cell electric SUV after 2025. The company hasn’t said whether it’ll be a Hyundai, Kia, or Genesis model. Various teasers and/or press announcements have directly or indirectly confirmed that each of these brands will get a large zero-emission SUV later this decade. One of them could have a hydrogen fuel cell electric variant or be a standalone hydrogen FCEV.
Land Rover Defender Fuel Cell Vehicle
Jaguar Land Rover is considering to launch a Land Rover Defender hydrogen FCEV. The British automaker has confirmed that it is developing a prototype to do a feasibility study for the same. 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
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. The company will begin testing the Defender FCEV prototype towards the end of 2021.
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