At this year’s LA auto show, Hydrogen fuel cell technology is the new and shiny, with more automakers than ever before demonstrating hydrogen fuel cell concept cars and hydrogen fuel cell production vehicles.
Thanks to a rather aggressive publicity campaign that’s been going on for months, Toyota’s first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell sedan — the 2016 Toyota Mirai — has been getting most of the attention, but now German automaker Volkswagen has used the LA Auto Show to unveil its own hydrogen fuel cell car: Golf SportWagen HyMotion.
Based on the seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf, the Golf SportWagen HyMotion uses the same underlying Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) platform as the rest of the 2015 Volkswagen Golf family, as well as the electric drivetrain components from the recently-launched 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf.
Instead of a 24.7 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack however, both feature a 100 kilowatt, fourth-generation hydrogen fuel cell stack fed by four small carbon-fibre composite hydrogen fuel tanks located in the car’s floor. Capable of storing compressed hydrogen at a total pressure of 700 bar (10,150 psi), the four fuel tanks not only provide a range of around 310 miles per fill, but also allow for minimal impact on interior space within the vehicle.
Like the Volkswagen e-Golf, Volkswagen has gone to great lengths to try and keep the inside of the Golf SportWagen HyMotion as close to its gasoline counterpart as possible. With the hydrogen fuel cell stack, power regulator, turbo compressor and cooling system located under the hood next to the 85 kilowatt electric motor, the majority of the power electronics are located in the centre tunnel area underneath each vehicle. The small lithium-ion battery pack — which recaptures energy from braking and stores it for future use — is located above the rear suspension.
Volkswagen says the Golf SportWagen HyMotion can accelerate from 0-62 mph in around 10 seconds — a little slower than the Toyota Mirai but marginally quicker than the Volkswagen e-Golf.
Interestingly, Volkswagen says it’s also been testing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for some time in quiet, with a fleet of Passat HyMotion vehicles already on the streets of California clocking up some significant test data.
There’s no word on pricing or availability yet, but Volkswagen is keen to point out that the inclusion of a hydrogen fuel cell option to its production Golf family means that the Volkswagen Golf is the first and only car on the market to come in gasoline, diesel, compressed natural gas, electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell guises.
As with other hydrogen fuel cell cars, the success of the Golf SportWagen HyMotion depends on consumer interest and more importantly, an explosion of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure between now and launch. Without it, the Golf SportWagen HyMotion will only be practical in cities like Los Angeles, where a fledgling hydrogen refuelling infrastructure is currently being built.
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