In March, famed Italian auto design firm Pininfarina unveiled the H2 Speed, a supercar concept powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. At the time, Pininfarina said the car—introduced at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show—was “halfway between a racing prototype and a production supercar.” The concept car might be moving from prototype to production faster than previously expected.
A report this week in Auto Express, a UK publication, indicated that Mahindra, the Indian auto giant, is considering real-world production of a Pininfarina-designed electric supercar. Pininfarina was acquired by Mahindra’s IT division in 2015.
Anand Mahindra, the company’s chairman, last week said, “Among Pininfarina’s aspirations now that it’s part of our group is not simply to design for other brands, but to design their own car, which is something they never had until now.” Mahindra was speaking in London at the FIA Formula E championship, the racing series featuring pure battery-electric vehicles.
The Indian auto industry is eager to develop cars with little to no tailpipe emissions. Tata Motors, India’s largest automobile company, in February showcased a range of eco-friendly vehicles, including a hydrogen-powered micro-van. In March, Mahindra officially launched the e2o all-electric micro-car to the UK market. In June, Tata Motors—along with Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra, Ford India, and Mahindra Reva—created a consortium to develop a supplier base for hybrid and electric vehicle components.
India’s previous battery-electric and hydrogen offerings—small modestly powered runabouts—are not in the same automotive universe as the H2 Speed supercar. Its powertrain was produced by GreenGT, a Franco-Swiss company which has designed, manufactured and tested clean alternative high-power propulsion systems since 2008.
The H2 Speed uses two hydrogen stacks, which in turn power two electric motors—with a combined output of about 500 horsepower directly delivered to the rear wheels. Two tanks hold about 13 pounds of gaseous hydrogen. The carbon-fiber supercar weighs a little more than 3,000 pounds.
For more than a decade, green sports cars—as well as the participation of environmentally friendly cars at major motorsports events—have demonstrated that low- and zero-emissions vehicles can appeal for sportiness as well as fuel efficiency. In recent weeks, hydrogen cars have made appearances at two prominent motorsports events.
In late May, Prince Albert II officially opened the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix, the premier event in the Formula One season, by driving the Toyota Mirai for a lap around the famed course. In early June, Toyota’s hydrogen fuel-cell sedan competed at Gurston Down in Wiltshire, UK. The hill climb speed trial is one of motorsport’s oldest and most traditional events—a 1,000-yard sprint rising 140 feet along narrow windy roads. Journalist David Finlay drove a Mirai, wrapped in mirror chrome, up the course in 44.44 seconds at an average speed of 62.5 miles per hour.
Only time will tell if Mahindra and Pininfarina actually deliver a zero-emissions supercar—and how the vehicle will be powered. But the technical ability for hydrogen fuel-cell technology to deliver extraordinary levels of performance is now established by cars like the H2 Speed, which has a top speed of 186 miles per hour and and a zero-to-62-mph time of 3.4 seconds. Pininfarina called the H2 Speed “the world’s first hydrogen, high performance car.”