Viritech presents new hydrogen powertrain technology in Apricale hypercar

Cleantech engineers Viritech presented revolutionary hydrogen powertrain technology in the form of the Apricale, the world’s first zero-emission hypercar to achieve weight parity with petrol-engined competitors, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last week (23rd June).
Viritech presents new hydrogen powertrain technology in Apricale hypercar
Courtesy of Viritech

According to Viritech, Apricale is the first car in the world to achieve zero-emissions hypercar performance, with a weight of only 1,000kg. This transforms the driving experience of the Apricale, combining the agility of the best petrol-engined hypercars with the instant response of an electric motor. Viritech says that the electric drivetrain means that the Apricale is actually more responsive than a traditional hypercar.

Many vehicles cannot function with a powertrain that weighs more than an equivalent internal combustion engine. Until now, such vehicle categories have been excluded from the move to zero-emissions powertrains, as batteries are always heavier than internal combustion engines – and the higher the power requirement, the bigger the difference.

The powertrain of the Apricale shows that a zero-emissions powertrain can offer the same power, the same weight and the same range as an internal combustion engine.

The ambition to overcome all the compromises of zero-emission vehicles required Viritech’s engineers to completely reconsider how fuel cells and batteries function together.

“Hydrogen fuel cells have, until now, been used as range extenders for powertrains with batteries at their heart” said Matt Faulks, Viritech’s CTO. “We’ve essentially turned that approach on its head, developing a powertrain around multi-hundred kW fuel cell system supported by a lightweight but highly efficient battery. This delivers hypercar performance for Apricale, but at less than half the weight of typical BEV hypercars. Not only does this reduction in weight transform Apricale’s driving dynamics, but our reduced reliance on batteries means less demand on rare earth minerals.”

The multi-hundred kW fuel cells are combined with unique Ultra High Power lithium-ion cells developed by technical partners, AMTE Power and Viritech’s patent-pending intelligent energy management system, Tri-Volt. While the fuel cells provide the main motive power for Apricale, the battery provides additional power for acceleration and ultra-high performance driving, as well as a highly-efficient storage for regenerative braking energy.

The Tri-Volt Energy Management System and Viritech’s patent-pending power electronics enable a continuously variable mix of energy from both the fuel cells and the batteries. In addition, the very fast charge and discharge batteries enable the regenerative braking system to recover many times more kinetic energy than a traditional battery electric vehicle.

Until now, hydrogen has been another key weight problem. To withstand the 700 bar pressure, most hydrogen storage tanks have a weight efficiency of only around 5 percent (5kg of hydrogen requires a 100kg storage tank). Viritech’s engineers developed a radical solution – the patent pending Graph-Pro technology uses lightweight composites and a graphene-enabled resin system, allowing the tanks to form part of the structural element of the Apricale monocoque. This solution minimises weight, improves packaging and provides a projected range of over 350 miles/560 kms before refuelling.

The fact that Apricale weighs only 1,000kg means that it can escape the handling constraints of a BEV hypercar. The suspension features all-round pull-rod torsion bar suspension with a limited degree of active ride control.

With a low polar moment of inertia, the car will have the dynamic characteristics of a classic mid-engined supercar with minimal weight transfer under steer, yaw and pitch.

There are two drive motors (one on the front axle, one on the rear). With its sub-1,000kg weight, there is limited requirement for torque vectoring, so the driveline uses a pair of mechanical differentials.

The unique combination of light weight and the instant response of electric motors means that the Apricale will be even more inspiring to drive than a traditional supercar.

The Apricale revealed at Goodwood last week was originally conceived as a reference design by Viritech, and optimised by Pininfarina.

Silvio Angori, CEO of Pininfarina described the design as ‘a synthesis of technology, sustainability, beauty, and above all, performance.’ Alongside the development of the Apricale’s styling, Viritech is in discussion with Pininfarina to build the limited production run of just 25 examples at its atelier in Cambiano in Turin.

With stunning looks, Apricale will not just be seen, but also heard. The vehicle will have its very own distinct and futuristic sound emanating from the fuel cells and electric drivetrain.

Apricale’s key technologies including the drivetrain, the Tri-Volt EMS and the Graph-Pro structural storage vessels have already been validated in two mule vehicles that have successfully undergone testing. Experimental prototype 1 (XP1) will provide the final sign-off process for the powertrain. While XP1 will test for 100,000km, it will overlap with a production prototype, intended to validate all aspects of Apricale during 2023, so that Viritech can commence customer deliveries in early 2024.

The technologies developed by Viritech are highly scalable. Viritech focused on the Apricale for their first application since a hypercar platform makes the most significant demands of power, weight and packaging. Proven in Apricale, the powertrain technology is being developed by Viritech for a diverse range of sustainable transport applications. 

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