Hydrogen fuel cell EVs aren’t particularly sexy, or at least, they weren’t. Say hello to the Hyundai N Vision 74 concept, a high-performance hydrogen fuel cell-powered EV meant to bridge EV power and performance with liquid fuel range. Hyundai’s N high-performance sub-brand has been working on battery and fuel cell-powered performance prototypes for seven years now, and the project is beginning to bear some exciting fruit. The N Vision 74 aims to solve the biggest issue with high-performance EVs: the lack of range. The N people call it a “hydrogen hybrid.”
Hydrogen: It’s A Gas!
Running flat-out, batteries don’t last long. A previous all-electric prototype, the RM20e, only had 25 miles of range when driven on a racetrack, and while making the battery bigger would give it more range, it would also significantly increase the weight and hurts performance. Hyundai’s solution: add a hydrogen fuel cell instead which combines compressed hydrogen from onboard tanks with oxygen in the atmosphere to create electricity and water, then use that electricity to power the electric motors.
With just 4.2 kilograms of hydrogen onboard and a fully charged 62.4-kWh battery, Hyundai claims the N Vision 74 has a range of more than 373 miles when driven gently. It’s bound to be much less when driven hard, as the dual rear electric motors suck down electrons to the tune of more than 580 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to give the sleek, angular coupe a top speed of over 155 mph and the ability to hit 60 mph in four seconds. The company is looking into adding a front motor in future prototypes which would reduce acceleration times even further.
In addition to adding range, the fuel cell also reduces refueling time to just five minutes. The battery, meanwhile, is capable of charging at 800 volts, which should drop its charging time from 10 percent to 80 percent to under 18 minutes, based on production Hyundai EVs with similar battery technology. The fuel cell can pump out a maximum of 95 kW to help power the motors or recharge the battery.
Fuel Tanks Up Front, Torque Party In The Rear
The fuel cell itself is located under the hood, while a pair of hydrogen storage tanks are fitted in the trunk. A T-shaped battery fits behind and between the two seats, keeping the heaviest component in the center of the car for better weight distribution.
Regardless of source, power is fed to a pair of motors on the rear axle, one driving each rear wheel. This allows the computer to perform torque vectoring in the same fashion as an electronically controlled limited slip differential, a trick the N engineers used to great success on the RM20e concept.
Keeping the fuel cell, battery, and motors cool presents an enormous challenge, so the N Vision 74 features three separate cooling circuits serving each system separately. The goal is to have the car run a flat-out lap of the challenging Nürburgring Nordschleife without overheating and reducing power.
The Italian Connection
As cool as the numbers are, they’re nothing compared to the car itself. Inspired by the Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed 1974 Hyundai Pony Coupe concept, the N Vision 74 looks like a restomod ’70s supercar. We see a lot of Lancia 037 and DeLorean DMC-12 in the look, enhanced with massive side air intakes and an enormous rear wing, neither of which would look out of place on a modern Lamborghini. We love the turbine-style 20-inch front and 21-inch rear wheels, which have been wrapped in what must be the widest tires ever on a Hyundai, 295 width up front and 325 in the rear. The pixelated headlights from the Hyundai Ioniq 5 give it a real retro-futuristic look we can’t help but love.
The DeLorean bit is no accident. When Hyundai wasn’t able to bring the Pony Coupe to market for a variety of reasons (lack of a proper engine, not to mention lacking general market awareness and acceptance), Giugiaro continued to refine the design and eventually sold the new version to DeLorean.
“Born from the floor of Hyundai Pony,” Giugiaro wrote in a quote unearthed by Hyundai historians, “will be the greatest source of inspiration for a production car designed to leave its mark: the legendary DeLorean DMC-12.”
N representatives are keen to draw a direct line between the Pony Coupe and the N Vision 74, the same way they did between the Pony sedan and the Ioniq 5. They’re very aware the brand hasn’t been known for its design prowess until rather recently and they want everyone to know they have history.
“If you see DeLorean [in this car],” said Hyundai Motor Group design boss, Sangyup Lee, “just remember, we did it first.”
The result is stunning. It’s a perfect balance of retro inspiration and modern touches. More than that, it’s just all around good design work. Every line is perfectly resolved, every shape and curve deliberate and not overdone. Nothing feels out of place or fussy. It’s clean, it’s purposeful, and it would look absolutely brilliant on the road today.
Inside Out And Underneath
Inside, Hyundai designers say they’ve balanced of old and new design cues by pairing physical knobs and switches with a fully digital instrument cluster.
There are pretty parts underneath the car, too, where Hyundai is experimenting with 3D printing to bring down the weight inherent to big EV batteries. Engineers are trying out printed frame braces and even wheel knuckles in hopes of shedding a few pounds.
Hyundai is being coy about the N Vision 74’s future, saying only that its underlying technology could be used in a future vehicle and that this car as it sits is “not confirmed for commercial production.” Given the current state of hydrogen refueling worldwide, it’s not a surprise, but it’s a hell of a disappointment. Fuel cell or not, we desperately want this car to come to production, one way or another.
Scott Evans |Writer
Jul 15, 2022