Listen to this article
Reading time: 5 minutes
Pininfarina is one of the most recognizable names in the automotive world. The Italian company has designed and manufactured automotive icons such as the Ferrari Testarossa and the Fiat 124. Lately, the design house has even started producing its own electric supercar, the Battista.
However, last month Pininfarina revealed it was working on a new hydrogen SUV in conjunction with fledgling Paris-based automaker NamX. We caught up with Paolo Pininfarina, CEO of the company, to learn more about the project.
A muscular figure
“The design project was initiated by Thomas de Lussac, who designed a ‘muscular’ shape with somewhat surprising unconventional proportions for an electric car,” says Pininfarina.
The HUV, which stands for Hydrogen Utility Vehicle, is certainly imposing.
Around corners and wheel arches, the HUV seems to be trying to get out of its own design – the sharp edges and curvy stance give this eco-friendly engine an angry look.
From Lussac’s original design, the Pininfarina team took these outlines and refined them.
“The concept was then refined by our team and finalized with the construction of a three-dimensional model with a lot of attention to detail. I dare say the result is outstanding, one of the best car designs of our recent past,” says Pininfarina.
Likewise, the car is covered in crosses, a nod to NamX’s “X”.
“I find the reason for this excellence in the strong identity of the body given by the gesture of the ‘X’ on the side successfully integrated into a very well balanced shape with convincing proportions and surfaces”, says Pininfarina.
Although Pininfarina can be very happy with the design, there are still a number of questions about the ELV that need to be answered. The company itself, although based in the French capital, appears to be the work of just two men. One is de Lussac, the company’s design director, the other is Faouzi Annajah, a Franco-Moroccan businessman whose most recent experience has been with IT companies.
“Our dual ambition is to become a new benchmark in the world of zero-emission cars, and to constantly explore new territories to facilitate mobility for our consumers,” Annajah said during the HUV reveal.
“NAMX is a collective project built with the best industrial and technical partners in Europe and Africa.
try something new
“Our company has always been driven by innovation,” says Pininfarina.
“The NamX project is new from several points of view: the concept, the design procedure, the business model, the technology, the manufacturing site, etc.
“We are convinced that our design vision and our experience in supporting the development of emerging brands will be very fruitful in this demanding and ambitious project which is also the expression of our desire for a more sustainable future.
For Pininfarina and NamX, the HUV’s hydrogen powertrain is central to that sense of innovation. An entry-level rear-drive version is expected to have 300 horsepower and can hit 100 km/h in just 6.5 seconds before hitting a limited top speed of 200 km/h.
An all-wheel-drive version will offer 550 horsepower and will reach 250 km/h flat out while managing 0-100 km/h in less than 5 seconds.
“I’m not so convinced to say that hydrogen will be the only answer for the mobility of the future,” Pininfarina says, not surprisingly given the company’s own efforts on the battery-electric Batista.
“However, I’m sure it will be one of the answers, [it is] particularly suitable in the NamX case because the projected ecosystem allows the generation of hydrogen by renewable energy. This time we really have the opportunity to create a new model in Morocco.
The ELV will also feature six detachable hydrogen-filled capsules that should give drivers a range of up to 800 km.
“The goal of rear-mounted reusable capsules is to increase the mileage of the car with the same recharge time, thereby improving the user experience,” explains Pininfarina.
Build the vision
The HUV is expected to enter its development phase next year, before going on sale at the end of 2025. Prices are expected to range between €65,000 and €95,000, depending on the trim level buyers choose.
“The HUV is aimed at future SUV users who will find in hydrogen technology the right answer to their desire for sustainable mobility and their concern for the environment. And in the next few years, the number of these users will certainly increase,” says Pininfarina.
However, while NamX calls itself an “Afro-European constellation of leading experts and partners” and believes that “hydrogen will be at the heart of a great Euromed equation”, Pininfarina keeps his cards close to his chest. .
“Regarding the fabrication plan,” says Pininfarina, “at this time, the entire project team has been asked to remain confidential.”
Of course, much of this is still very hypothetical. Hydrogen energy, while not new, is still in its infancy as a power source for cars. Likewise, the HUV’s refillable capsules sound interesting, but will the idea of what stylish jerrycans actually be going to win over buyers? And, is everything vaporware? We have already seen innovative automakers with impressive designs come and go.
For Pininfarina, the company and Paolo, ELV and hydrogen are only part of the solution.
“In the long term, hydrogen will probably become more economically suitable than the battery. In the medium term, I see battery electric tied to city use and hydrogen as it is more practical for extra-urban use with longer daily mileage,” says Pininfarina.
“I like to think that if there are two options, Pininfarina will be ready to develop two specific design projects. So the future for us will be twice as bright!