When, exactly, the supercar era ended and the hypercar era began remains a point of contention for gearheads the world over. In a new series of exhibits not yet open to the public, the Petersen Automotive Museum argues that Bugatti delivered the world’s first hypercar, the Veyron, back in 2005. With its quad-turbocharged W16 engine powering all four wheels, the Veyron set the stage for obscenely expensive offerings from the likes of Koenigsegg, Pagani, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Aston Martin, and the list goes on…
But the Bugatti Chiron that broke the 300-mile-per-hour barrier last year was really just an evolution of the Veyron—meanwhile, Lamborghini keeps churning out ever more powerful naturally aspirated V12 engines.
More recently, SSC claimed to have eclipsed Bugatti’s top-speed run with a 331-mile-per-hour attempt in the long-awaited Tuatara amid rumors that Volkswagen AG might sell both Lamborghini and Bugatti to Rimac, a Croation electric hypercar manufacturer on the cusp of releasing the battery-powered C_Two. Throw in the forthcoming Tesla Roadster’s borderline-hypercar stat sheet and there’s a case to be made for a new classification that separates internal-combustion cars from hybrids and EVs.
But now, almost out of left field, a new hypercar from a California-based tech startup called Hyperion Motors takes the category to a whole new world in terms of futuristic styling, advanced engineering, and impressive power. Even more surprising, however, is the fact that Hyperion’s XP-1 hypercar is powered by hydrogen.
I recently spoke with Hyperion CEO Angelo Kafantaris about the wild performance claims announced alongside the hydrogen-powered XP-1 hypercar and the space-age technology that underpins its radical design and engineering.
Hyperion Motors CEO Angelo KafantarisKafantaris got his start in the automotive industry working at Mattel on Hot Wheels toys. Later, he’d contribute futuristic concept car designs to Hollywood productions including recent Wolverine and Independence Day installments.
Today, Kafantaris leads Hyperion Motors and recently unveiled the XP-1 to the world. But from the outset of our talk, he wanted me to clearly understand that his message isn’t really about the XP-1. It’s about hydrogen, in general.
Yes, the XP-1 looks like something from the next century and lives up to the bold design with stats like a 1,016-mile range, a top speed over 221 miles per hour, and a 0-60 time around two seconds. But as Kafantaris tells it, “The purpose of the car that we built was to tell the story of hydrogen. To build something where each feature could only exist in a hydrogen car, to tell the story of this element that stores electricity between the molecular bonds that hold it together.”
It’s important to make clear that just like all hydrogen-powered cars, the XP-1 is actually an electric car. But rather than using batteries to store electricity, a hydrogen-powered car fuels up on—you guessed it—hydrogen, in its elemental form of a bonded pair. Combine those pairs with an oxygen atom and an electron emerges—voila, electricity!
But inevitably, bringing up hydrogen sparks a few burning questions. What about the Hindenberg disaster? And the Challenger Space Shuttle? Well, Kafantaris assured me, NASA didn’t abandon hydrogen after the Challenger exploded—they couldn’t, because it’s the only option on the table.