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The Hyperion XP-1

When California-based automaker Hyperion Motors unveiled their hydrogen-powered Hyperion XP-1 in August 2020, the market sentiment had become one of wait-and-see, writes Thomas Hughes.

With a number of automakers promising to revolutionise auto style (and motoring generally) with their latest sexy offering, but then almost immediately running into assorted difficulties, it’s fair to say that Hyperion hit the market when investor capital viewed motoring claims as ‘charmingly dubious’ at best.

That said, the Hyperion XP-1 was gorgeous, it still is now that it’s in production, and if any automaker wins the award for over-promising and then over-delivering on that over-promise, it’s Hyperion! Finally, a hydrogen cell automaker that has made a Ferrari look fuddy-duddy, not just blown, but whipped the socks off the opposition on all specs that count, and also somehow restored our ability to be dazzled by the mystery of the future once again.

None of this is an overstatement, and if an XP-1 pulled up against the curb and a tentacled alien stepped out and asked for directions, no one would be surprised, and everyone would still stare at the car more than the alien! From a Sci-Fi genre gone round and bubbly with vehicles for a moment, the XP-1 grabs both aerodynamics and uber-sexy style and restores them properly in a radical car that is nothing short of an eyeball magnet.

In Mercedes (and even early Tesla models), gull-wing doors were the hallmark of rad styling for years, but the doors of the XP-1 lift on a front pinion, making the car look more like a diving falcon — totally awesome.

In comparison, gull-wing doors look like your car’s had an accident. That’s what the XP-1 has done to perceptions of motoring, and it’s no small feat.


Although the Hyperion XP-1 is still very much the prototype that was on display two years ago, the passage of time has allowed us to realise — there is no improving it. That’s a bold statement in an arena given to constant performance and styling refinements (not to mention advancing AI and robotics), but if you search the literature of reviews of this car, no one is making any “pity about this, though” comments.

Hyperion has indeed done the seemingly impossible — rolled a prototype into production after three years, without anyone wondering out loud whether they are going to incorporate this improvement or that innovation. Variably described as having “unconventional proportions” and as “an intergalactic spacecraft on wheels”, the XP-1 twangs the human aesthetic unlike any other car out there.

With Bugatti-style adjustable blades mounted with tracking solar panels, this is a car that takes the gobbledygook of wannabe futurism and actually assembles it in a manner that is beyond pleasing. Superbike riders beware — the XP-1 also accelerates to 100 km/h from standing in 2.2 seconds (!), and streams along at a top end of 356 km/h. It seems the days of bike-feeds-car-dust are now truly over, from start to finish, all puns intended.

Sticking with the exterior, the monocoque frame is titanium carbon, and the body panels are titanium-infused. Slim headlights adorn a low mounted grille, giving the car all the streetfighter vibe it needs, and various air intakes hint at being tunnels to another dimension. The fin solar panels also act as an aerofoil, providing a downforce that improves handling — very Formula 1 type stuff.

Peaking the scales at 1,032 kg due to its lighter weight hydrogen propulsion system, titanium carbon build, and sitting atop an aluminium alloy suspension, the XP-1 has throttled the gap between car and superbike torque in a scary manner. Hydrogen fuel is carried in proprietary carbon-fibre tanks, and the fuel cell delivers power to all four wheels. Over-spec axial-flux electric motors are the whizz behind the wheels, and the Hyperion XP-1 boasts a range of 1,635 km when filled, something that takes around 5 minutes tops — Tesla eat your heart out!

With a powertrain made up of performance-boosting supercapacitors (aka ultracapacitors) rather than batteries, a three-speed transmission, and those four smart electric motors turning the wheels, the XP-1’s output runs over 2,000 hp — there’s that 0-100 km/h acceleration in 2.2 seconds revisited. Unlike many electric vehicles that are both a lot heavier and lack that final psychotic edge, the XP-1’s top speed of 356 km/h is ample, even for the truly deranged among us.


Hyperion is looking at an initial production of 300 cars, and if you’re reading this and the idea of owning one is growing on you, start dialling, because there are unlikely to be any units left for open sale once the run is done. Reservations on purchases are being enabled via the company website. No price yet, but what price can you put on time travel?

Touted by Hyperion as the first hydrogen ”supercar”, the XP-1’s range assumes that 55% of driving is city driving, with 45% out on the highway. That’s a more honest and fair appraisal of average usage than many electric car ‘fine print’ realities. With a bigger hydrogen capacity than for example, the Honda Clarity or the Toyota Mirai, the XP-1’s range is impressive, and at no cumbersome cost to its performance.

Hyperion CEO, Angelo Kafantaris, is also dreaming of a national network of hydrogen refuelling stations, just like Tesla’s Supercharger infrastructure. There will, however, be fewer refuelling stations for the XP-1 by design, as its fuel carrying capacity simply extrapolates into fewer being necessary.

After almost a decade of development, from the initial futuristic design to manifest reality, the XP-1 is not just aerodynamic and extremely stylish outside (think double-stacked water vapour exhaust outlets at back), its interior is both comfy and mod too. With a 98-inch display (controlled with hand gestures) and a huge glass canopy of nearly half a metre, the XP-1 presents the best of futuristic supercar aspirations of the last two decades or so.

Are there issues with fuel cell cars? They’ve been described as inefficient in terms of their energy transfer, and the gas is highly flammable, much more so than petrol. They’re powered by compressed hydrogen gas and, rather than gas-burning, the fuel cell stack in a hydrogen car instead transforms the hydrogen’s chemical energy into electrical power. The technology is sound, no matter its detractors. Batteries are inescapably heavy, and other electrical automakers always seem to bang up against the desire for greater speed and range being tarnished by the extra weight needed, and the time needed to recharge more batteries.

The XP-1’s refuel time is akin to a typical gasoline car today. Not bad at all. The XP-1’s hydrogen powertrain employs space flight technology, storing more hydrogen in a lesser volume than any other hydrogen car competitor. This makes it lighter than others, and faster too. Indeed, it’s faster than 99% of anything out there.


Just like petrol and diesel automakers went toe to toe in the early days (before all of them started making both!), conventional electric automakers are set against hydrogen cell makers now, vying for customers. Thanks largely to Tesla, battery-powered automakers got the jump on hydrogen-powered vehicles, but no one is declaring a winner in this race yet. If anything, the XP-1 is a huge feather in the cap of hydrogen cell designs, and it’s only going to get better from here on out.

With the advent of solid-state batteries, automakers in both ‘traditional’ electric (batteries) and hydrogen fuel cell camps are still contesting the markets. In spite of its flammability and current comparative rarity (at least in comparison to available battery supplies), hydrogen offers automakers numerous advantages that are only beginning to be explored.

Who will buy it indeed? Its appeal to wealthy celebrities is a foregone conclusion. In fact, anyone who’d like to feel like they’re flying a jet (without actually taking off) is going to want one. It’s exclusivity is a big draw card. The XP-1 is (for now) extremely limited in production, and it’s a one-off — there are no Hyperion vans or sedans. Hyperion means supercar, period.

It’s going to dazzle affluent individuals with its uber sexy, futuristic features inside and out, and it really is faster than just about anything on the road. is calling it a “hydrogen powered beauty” and is calling it “the coolest car in the world”.

Could it be that an auto house has managed to squeeze even Hollywood eyeballs out of their lethargy, so saturated have they become with the same old Sci-Fi images and futuristic projections? It seems so. Those who see it, want it.   EG

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