Designing the NamX HUV with Paolo Pininfarina
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Pininfarina is one of the most recognizable names in the automotive world. The Italian company has designed and manufactured motoring icons such as the Ferrari Testarossa and 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-powered SUV in collaboration with nascent Paris-based automaker NamX. We sat down with Paolo Pininfarina, the company’s CEO, to find out more about the project.
A Muscular Shape
“The design project was started by Thomas de Lussac, who conceived a ‘muscular’ shape with unconventional proportions somehow surprising for an electric car,” says Pininfarina.
The HUV, which stands for Hydrogen Utility Vehicle, is certainly imposing.
At the corners and the wheel arches, the HUV looks as though it is trying to break out of its own design — the sharp edges and hunched-over stance make this eco-friendly motor look angry.
From Lussac’s original design, the team at Pininfarina took those broad strokes 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 the details. I dare to say that the result is outstanding, one of the best car designs of our recent past,” says Pininfarina.
Similarly, the car is covered in crosses, a nod to the “X” in NamX.
“I find the reason for this excellence in the strong identity of the body given by the ‘X’ gesture on the side successfully integrated into a very well-balanced shape with convincing proportions and surfaces,” Pininfarina says.
While Pininfarina might be very pleased with the design, there are still a number of questions around the HUV that need to be answered. The company itself, while based in the French capital, seems to be the work of just two men. One is de Lussac, the company’s Design Director, the other is Faouzi Annajah, a French-Moroccan businessman whose most recent experience has been with IT companies.
“Our double ambition is to become a new reference in the world of zero-emission cars, and to constantly explore new territories to facilitate mobility of our consumers,” said Annajah when the HUV was revealed.
“NAMX is a collective project built with the best industrial and technical partners in Europe and Africa.”
Trying Something New
“Our company has always been attracted to innovation,” says Pininfarina.
“The project for NamX is new from several points of view: the concept, the design procedure, the business model, the technology, the manufacturing site, etc.
“We believe that our design vision and our experience in supporting the development of emerging brands will be very fruitful in this challenging and ambitious project which is also the expression of our wish of a more sustainable future.”
For Pininfarina and NamX, the HUV’s hydrogen powertrain is central to that feeling of innovation. An entry-level rear-wheel-drive version is expected to have 300 horsepower and can hit 100 kph in just 6.5 seconds before reaching a limited top speed of 200 kph.
An all-wheel-drive version will offer 550 horsepower and hit 250 kph flat out while managing the 0-100 kph sprint in less than 5 seconds.
“I am not so convinced to say that hydrogen power will be the only answer for the mobility of the future,” says Pininfarina, which is unsurprising given the company’s own efforts on the battery-electric Batista.
“However, I am sure that it will be one of the answers, [it is] particularly suitable in the NamX case as the projected ecosystem allows the generation of hydrogen through renewable energy. This time we really have the opportunity to create a new model in Morocco.”
The HUV will also feature six removable hydrogen-filled capsules that should allow drivers a range of up to 800 km.
“The objective of the reusable capsules in the back is to increase the mileage of the car with the same recharge time, thus improving the user experience,” says Pininfarina.
Building the Vision
The HUV is expected to enter its development phase next year, before going on sale at the back end of 2025. Prices should range between €65,000 and €95,000, depending on the trim level buyers choose.
“The HUV is aimed at the SUV users of the future who will find in the hydrogen technology the right response to their desire of sustainable mobility and their care for the environment. And in the next years, the number of these users will certainly become wider,” says Pininfarina.
However, while NamX says it is an “African-European constellation of leading experts and partners” and thinks that “hydrogen will be at the core of a large Euromed equation,” Pininfarina is keeping its cards close to its chest.
“As far as the manufacturing plan,” Pininfarina says, “at the present time all the project team has been asked to remain confidential.”
Of course, much of this is still very hypothetical. Hydrogen power, while not new, is still in its fantasy as a power source for cars. Similarly, the HUV’s refillable capsules sound interesting, but will the idea of what are, effectively, stylish jerry cans wash with buyers? And, is this all vaporware? We’ve seen innovative car companies with impressive designs come and go before.
For Pininfarina, both the company and Paolo, the HUV and hydrogen power are only part of the solution.
“In the long-term, hydrogen will probably become more economically suitable than battery. In the medium term, I see battery-electric linked to city use and hydrogen as it is more convenient 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 two times brighter!