Volkswagen showed off its fourth-generation fuel cell research vehicle in San Francisco. This vehicle, built into Volkswagen's new Tiguan crossover model, uses hydrogen to create electricity, providing power for the car's electric drive motor. It also has a lithium ion battery pack for extra electricity storage.
The previous two generations of Volkswagen's HyMotion fuel cell research vehicles were built on its Touran minivan platform. Volkswagen is just introducing the Tiguan crossover vehicle this year, and chose to use this new model as a platform for its newest fuel cell technology.
Volkswagen mounted this hydrogen intake in place of a gas filler. The HyMotion holds just over two and a half kilograms of hydrogen in tanks wrapped in carbon fiber and Kevlar. John Tillman, head of Fuel Cell Research, pointed out that jet fighter fuel tanks are made of similar materials, and can be jettisoned at high altitude to be recovered later. The HyMotion can go about 160 miles when its tanks are full, getting the gasoline equivalent of 42 mpg to 62 mpg.
The Tiguan's body is completely stock. Volkswagen made no modifications to lighten it or provide extra room for the fuel cell powertrain. As with many fuel cell vehicles, the HyMotion uses compressed hydrogen gas. There is also a 22 kilowatt lithium ion battery pack onboard for storing electricity from regenerative braking. Strangely, Volkswagen didn't give the HyMotion plug-in capability.
The fuel cell stack and power management module sits in the engine compartment. This fuel cell stack, supplied by Ballard Power Systems, produces 80 kilowatts of electricity by combining hydrogen gas with oxygen and capturing the resultant electricity from the reaction. The only byproduct from this reaction is water.
This view directly under the front of the car shows another power management module. There is also an electric motor powering the front wheels of the Tiguan. Volkswagen claims the total power output of this system is 134 horsepower. The Tiguan isn't exactly a rocket, going from 0 to 60 mph in 14 seconds, but it is only a research vehicle.
The interior of this HyMotion is mostly leftover gear from a high trim Volkswagen Tiguan. Although the shifter shows a standard TipTronic transmission gate, it isn't actually hooked up to a transmission. The HyMotion's electric motor connects directly to the front wheels for maximum efficiency. The interior space of the Tiguan has not been compromised at all by the addition of the battery pack and hydrogen fuel cells.
Volkswagen placed HyMotion rocker panels inside and a badge on the rear of the vehicle. This car is one of only two fourth generation HyMotion vehicles in existence. John Tillman, head of Fuel Cell Research, said Volkswagen will look at introducing an actual fuel cell vehicle to the public as the infrastructure develops to fuel them, which he prognosticates at 7 years to 10 years.