If you want to draw attention to your hydrogen fuel cell trucks, you can probably get a lot of traction by evoking the groundbreaking Scorpion supercar and teasing an SUV based on those sleek stylings while appealing to the zero emission crowd with the eco-friendly name “Myst.” As in mist, get it? Water is the only thing that comes out of a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle. That seems to be the idea behind RONN Motor Group, which has just announced that it will produce a fuel cell SUV version of the legendary Scorpion.
From Hydrogen Fuel Cell Supercar to Hot SUV
To those of you who remember the Scorpion, we salute you. Our friends over at HotCars note that the gasoline-hydrogen hybrid came about in 2008, when RONN founder Ronn Maxwell was wondering how fast water can go and how the Earth could sustain the growing demand for gas.
With a body designed by hotrodders, an internal combustion engine (not a fuel cell) spinning on a blend of gas and hydrogen, and a whiz-bang fuel efficiency of 40 mpg (spectacular for a supercar), Scorpion created quite the stir when it was introduced. The pledge of a 200-car limit on production practically guaranteed that every wealthy car collector on the globe would snap up the line at a bargain basement cost of just $175,000 per unit (not bad for a supercar).
Too bad the economy tanked in 2008. RONN put the supercar idea on hold (though it’s not dead yet) and turned its attention to such mundane matters as buses and trucks.
The move into zero emission SUV production, announced on August 10, puts RONN in competition with practically every other auto maker in the world. However, RONN is banking on engineering as well as looks to carve out a space in the market.
“Taking its design cues from the ‘Scorpion’, RONN’s globally recognized hydrogen enhanced supercar, the ‘Myst’ will keep the sporty look, and stylistic features as well as a complete package of engineering firsts,” enthused the company in a press release earlier this week.
Who Needs A Hydrogen Fuel Cell SUV When You Have Buses & Trucks?
The Myst is a total tease as of this writing, with no photos or rendering available. However, RONN is not kidding around when it comes to its hydrogen truck and bus business. In the same press release, the company made sure everybody knows it has embraced the everyday world of trucks and buses.
“RMG [RONN Motor Group] has grown into a multinational company with about 80 executives and engineers in both US and China.
“It plans to launch to the market its first mid-duty Class 3-6 fuel cell logistic truck in late 2021. This truck will be produced in one of its JV in China.
“It has also completed engineering and supplier certification of a pre-production SUV/Sedan platform and plans to launch all electric/fuel cell electric SUV/Sportscar in 2022.
“Represents the first modular BEV and Hydrogen Fuel Cell flexible platform that maximizes the wheelbase for best-in-class interior space with a distinct modern appearance.”
If you caught that thing about BEV and Hydrogen Fuel Cell, you could be looking at the next iteration of the Scorpion. CleanTechnica has often wondered (well, maybe once or twice) if some enterprising automaker would combine batteries and fuel cells in the same vehicle, and now here we are.
To be clear, that would be a big battery for propulsion, not the kind of tiny battery one finds in practically every gasmobile.
The idea is to maximize both range and available space for passengers and cargo, by running the vehicle off a battery while recharging the battery as needed from a fuel cell.
With this configuration, RONN is touting a range of 500 miles and more for its intercity buses. Delivery trucks will get their first 100-200 miles of range off the battery alone.
So, Where Are You Getting Your Hydrogen Fuel?
Before RONN gets back around to the supercar idea, there is plenty of money to be made in both the short haul and long haul truck area.
“In today’s commerce, over 79% of people shop online in the US alone. This infrastructure has increased the demands of Postal, UPS, FedEx, etc. are in demand like never before,” RONN explains. “RONN Motor Group’s zero-emission Fleet Delivery Trucks will meet global government mandates for NEV’s in the commercial sector.”
The focus on fleet vehicles also provides RONN with the answer to the burning question of where the BEV-HFCEV driver will find fuel.
Individual drivers have a lot of trouble finding a public hydrogen fuel station today, and they will keep on having trouble until the hydrogen fuel station network is built out. That is why we’re thinking the Myst SUV is going to take a back seat to RONN’s other business for the time being.
In contrast, fleet delivery drivers will find their H2 fuel where they always find their fuel: at their fuel depot.
The long range of the hybrid battery-fuel cell configuration provides more than enough juice for drivers to complete a day’s route and return to their garage. Problem solved.
Onward & Upward For Green H2
As for where the hydrogen is coming from, Ronn Maxwell appears to have answered that question back in 2008, when he nailed water as the source of hydrogen fuel.
Electrolysis systems that produce so-named green or sustainable H2 from water are still relatively expensive, compared to the cost of hydrogen from fossil sources. However, electrolysis is coming down in cost more rapidly than predicted.
Electrolysis is also scaling to the fleet vehicle market. All things being equal, an electrolysis system could be installed right there in the fuel depot, which would relieve the fleet manager from the hassle of organizing fuel deliveries.
RONN hurried the green H2 trend along last year, when the company entered into a co-development partnership in China. The details were hush-hush, but it involved “a major Chinese provincial Economic and Technological Development Zone” in support of “China’s new hydrogen initiative,” which is focused on “sustainable hydrogen technologies, infrastructure and fuel cell vehicles.”
As if on cue, the green H2 firm SunHydrogen (formerly HyperSolar) is also leveraging its China connection to push the green hydrogen envelope. SunHydrogen is still working on its advanced Gen2 electrolysis system, and meanwhile it is pushing forward with the first commercial version of its Gen1 system.
Of course, these things don’t happen overnight. Under the name HyperSolar, SunHydrogen first crossed the CleanTechnica radar all the way back in 2011 for a cutting edge solar panel.
The solar power angle is the key. By 2013 the company was envisioning a network of solar powered H2 “farms.” After all, electrolysis systems run on electricity, and it makes no sense to power an electrolysis system on fossil fuels.
Stay tuned for updates on that Myst SUV. Production is slated for 2022, which would be right around the time that the H2 fueling network reaches critical mass in some markets.
Follow me on Twitter.
Image (screenshot): Courtesy of RONN Motor Group, via vimeo.