Viritech has announced that it’s making a hydrogen-powered hypercar called the Apricale. Viritech, which is moving into a new engineering facility at Horiba-MIRA in the British Midlands, plans to make hydrogen powertrains its core business, across a bunch of industries including aerospace, marine, energy, road and rail freight. The Apricale is one of three showpieces it’s building in small numbers to demonstrate and draw attention to its capabilities. It certainly looks like it’ll draw some attention, this would have to rank as one of the more conservative zero-emissions hypercar designs we’ve seen. Viritech says it’s going to develop the Apricale over the next 18 months, with a limited production run of 25 cars beginning in early 2023. The company is also working on “reference designs” a family-style SUV called the Tellurio, as well as a heavy-haul truck called the Jovian.
Viritech’s secret sauce, which it plans to prove in the Apricale, is its structural pressure vessels. Essentially, the company says it’s building a super-lightweight graphene composite monocoque frame for the car that incorporates hydrogen storage the way many battery-electric vehicles now incorporate their battery packs. The benefits: super-tidy packaging without great big cylinders to plan around, and a significant weight reduction as compared to cars with bolt-on hydrogen cylinders. The range of the car is as yet unknown, but it’s fair to expect it’ll be huge compared to battery-electrics. The only other hydrogen hypercar we’ve seen thus far, the eye-popping Hyperion XP-1, promises more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) on a tank. As we mused when we wrote about that one, you’ll probably want long ranges as an early adopter of hydrogen; you can’t charge it at home like a battery car, and there are currently just 14 hydrogen fuel stations in all of the UK.
With a name originating from the Latin word Apricus, meaning touched by the sun (consisting of hydrogen), the Apricale is a both a beautiful Hypercar, just half the weight of its battery competitors, and the perfect platform to develop a hydrogen powertrain and related technologies, capable of scaling for use in a family of hydrogen power solutions, applicable to heavy transport/machinery, aircraft, boats/ships, and off-grid power storage. With an engineering DNA with its roots in F1 and motorsports, it was a moment of epiphany when we realised a Hypercar would be the most effective way to demonstrate hydrogen’s advantages over batteries, when power and range requirements increase, or long-term energy storage is required. Following development and testing at our base at MIRA, the Apricale will go into limited production at the beginning of 2023, with just 25-cars produced to ensure their rarity value. But their legacy will be a growing body of IP to support Viritech’s business model of licensing advanced technologies to global OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers.
One of the first challenges we faced in designing the Apricale is that to date, hydrogen fuel tanks have been incorporated into hydrogen vehicles as an appendage – i.e. they have been attached to the vehicle chassis, rather then incorporated as an integral component – and due to the extremely high pressures at which hydrogen is stored in gas form (up to 700 bar), even when constructed with carbon fibre, they have a highly unattractive weight efficiency of around 5% – i.e. to store 5 Kgs of hydrogen (sufficient to cover around 300 miles in a family car) results in a total weight for the tank and hydrogen of c.100 Kgs. In motorsport, weight-saving and component efficiency is paramount (meaning every component should be as light as possible and ideally fulfil more than one function), we set about creating a new design for hydrogen tanks, resulting in our first Patent Application, for a lightweight, structural, graphene composite pressure vessel, capable of being used as a structural component of the monocoque chassis of the Apricale, or any other vehicle, machine, aircraft, ship or structure.
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