a luxury hydrogen sedan, a realistic project or a smokescreen?

First announced in 2020 in the form of a life-size model, the first performance from the very young French manufacturer Hopium takes a new step towards hypothetical production. This spectacular sedan called Machina, basically powered by hydrogen, is revealed today with this concept a little closer to the final version. From here to take the road, there is still a long way to go.

It’s almost like that, even though she’s hardly driving more than getting out of her transport car, on a walk. It is clear that the impressively slim sedan (4.90 m long, 1.40 m high) presented to us by the French start-up Hopium is currently only a simple prototype for the living room, which will have its first public appearance at Paris 2022 Motor Show in the autumn. Not until 2025 on the road, at bestif the development manages to follow its course … and this style study to convince investors, as that’s what it’s all about: this concept is above all a showcase to illustrate the project’s progress.

The track is nonetheless eloquent and the effort commendable, revealing the ambitions of the team led by the young driver and entrepreneur Olivier Lombard. It all starts with a blank sheet of paper, at least officially. But the object is relatively accomplished, for a concept of course. The doors (without frame) open, you can climb on board, the cockpit is for some adorned with (almost) functional controls and is a sight to see with a large TFT screen that runs across the entire width and unfolds in scrolling. The interior is neat, both in terms of materials (virtually no visible plastic) and layout.

The cabin at four individual seats are in the style of large Grand Touring salons, like an Aston Martin Rapide … Walking around, we confirm: the pencil line is classic, the varied influences in this athletic silhouette, very monolithic, resembling large smooth pebbles (only small gills are visible on the front, which open to cool of the fuel cell). There’s Jaguar, Aston Martin, a little Italian … nothing revolutionary, but in a time of crossover obsession, it seems almost avant-garde to go back to classic proportions!

We also know the price, at least a first estimate: at around € 120,000 minimum, we will not really talk about the people’s Hopium. Is this enough to sign the birth certificate for a new brand? In the luxury world, litigation can quickly become cruel. That challenges the challenge, even though around 1000 customers have already expressed their interest in the object for a deposit of 410 € (real pre-orders of a car that can only be found on paper?).

Hydrogen: what’s hiding underneath?

Few elements have been communicated to date regarding the characteristics of the engine that will equip the production machine. We simply know that the fuel cell responsible for producing the electricity to power one or two engines will be at the forefront and that the two hydrogen tanks (planned to be produced by the French equipment manufacturer Plastic Omnium) will be located below floor. No oversupply of wild power, as Hopium announces “only” 500 hp. The theoretical autonomy is estimated at about 1,000 km. Optimistic when you know that the sizes of the very small hydrogen circle (Hyundai Nexo, Toyota Mirai, Honda Clarity) require a maximum of 800 km. Hardly more performance figures, except for a mentioned top speed of 230 km / h.

Hopium Machina: a luxury hydrogen sedan, realistic project or smoke veil?

This data leaves some questions unanswered. Developing a fuel cell independently seems very illusory, it is hard to imagine such a car seeing the light of day without external support. Could the envelope use a technical base from Mirai, for example? In addition, the complexity and cost of developing a hydrogen supply and production network, obviously very heavy, has for some time cast doubt on the viability of this energy source for the public. Among most hydrogen players (including Renault, where the Scenic Vision concept remains technically quite abstract), it is accepted that this type of engine would have difficulty finding a concrete application outside of an industrial, public transport or transport context. for professionals operating within a predefined framework. Not to mention the energy balance of very large-scale hydrogen production. Is hydrogen barely on the rails already a bet from another time?

Next stage at the Paris World Cup, mid-October, where the Machina concept will benefit from at least one thing: the absence of most of the usual builders may allow it to linger a little longer than expected. It’s comfortable to look at, it’s not bad already.

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