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Viritech isn’t like most other car companies — mainly because it isn’t a car company at all.

The company might have revealed the Apricale, its 1,000+ horsepower, sub-1,000 kg hypercar, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last week, but the company has far broader ambitions.

Auto Futures sat down with co-founder Timothy Lyons prior to the Apricale’s to learn why the company thinks it might be the “vanguard” of a transport revolution.

Nature’s Battery

Lyons And
Silvio Pietro Angori, CEO of Pininfarina and Timothy Lyons, CEO and co-founder of Viritech

“The thing that I find so exciting about the Apricale, and this is not to divert or draw attention away from it being an extraordinary hypercar in its own right, but what makes it completely unique and iconic is that it represents the future of sustainable transportation,” says Lyons.

We’re speaking over the phone — he is about to board a flight to the Festival of Speed — but his enthusiasm for both the Apricale and what he thinks Viritech can achieve come through crystal clear.

“I’m an entrepreneur with many years of experience mostly in fintech and financial services and Matt [Faulks], the other co-founder, is a very experienced motorsports engineer with a Formula 1 and motorsports background. We had been talking for some time about creating a cleantech engineering business,” he explains. 

“The idea grew of building a business based around hydrogen and we looked at hydrogen from every perspective, the production side, the manufacturing side, and the supply side. They seemed to need a long gestation period and were capital intensive, so we needed to find something more practical. The more we thought about it, the more we questioned what was, at the time, the conventional wisdom that battery electric vehicles were the solution to everything.

“We need to be able to run these vehicles on nature’s battery — which is hydrogen. It is abundantly available. Long after everything is mined and refined, it will still be the case that 75% of the universe is made from hydrogen. You can use it to store energy, you can use it to make electricity and, when you do that, it turns back into water. It is totally recyclable.”

It was from this starting point that, 18 months ago, Viritech started down a path that would lead to the Apricale. However, as Lyons goes to pains to illustrate through our conversation — the hypercar was never the original end goal.

Viritech Apricale Rear

“We came to see that hydrogen powertrains will have a major part to play in the electrification of transportation. We evolved a model to develop hydrogen powertrain solutions for the automotive, aerospace, marine, and distributed power sectors. We realised that we can create a groundbreaking powertrain solution, initially for automotive, that could very quickly be capable of being adapted to create a family of powertrain solutions.”

With that rationale as a starting point, Lyons and Faulks were able to quickly — Viritech is still less than two years old — come up with a number of potential roads to explore. 

“We had to think about the applications where hydrogen would really have an advantage and where, to some extent, the volume and cost didn’t matter that much,” he explains. 

Those areas were aviation, heavy goods vehicles, and high-performance cars. 

“There are some very fast battery-electric cars,” Lyons continues. 

“They’re not high-performance cars as we have known them, they’re not a comparable driving experience with internal combustion engine cars. They typically carry around a tonne in extra weight and that means they’re super heavy and just won’t handle or perform like a traditional supercar or hypercar. We convinced ourselves very quickly that we could build a hydrogen hypercar which would weigh under 1,000 kilos and have over 1,000 brake horsepower.”

An “Iconic” Hypercar 

It might seem strange, then, for a company with ambitions of rewiring the entire transportation sector, to start by making just 25 ultra-fast and ultra-exclusive hypercars. 

According to Lyons, however, that wasn’t always the case.

“When we conceived the idea for Viritech, the intention was to become the go-to provider for hydrogen powertrain solutions and that our market would be OEMs and Tier Ones. So, very clearly, we were a B2B-focused company. It was not our primary ambition to be a manufacturer. 

“We thought that the Apricale was going to be a one-off project but, talking with Pininfarina has changed the landscape completely. With their involvement, we don’t have to set up our own manufacturing or production capacity for the Apricale.”

Viritech Exterior

To be clear, Viritech designs and owns the intellectual property for the Apricale while Pininfarina is the low-volume manufacturer. AMTE Power is developing the small battery for Apricale. Viritech has designed the fuel cell and an as-yet-unannounced global Tier One supplier is manufacturing it. 

“We used an engine management system which, again, comes very much from Formula 1,” explains Lyons.

“When a Grand Prix driver presses the throttle, he’s not pumping more fuel into the engine, as he used to in the old days. He’s actually pulling the torque from a combination of the ICE and the battery which itself is taking kinetic and heat energy. When he puts his foot down, the energy management system collects power from all the sources available to it instantly.

“Tri-Volt is a superb, smart, high-speed energy management system that is able to recognise the circumstances within which it is operating and use the energy in the vehicle — the fuel cell, primarily, a very small battery, and kinetic energy.”

Viritech Apricale Wheel

The Apricale, then, is smart, fast, and — following design flourishes and tweaks from Pininfarina — a very handsome car indeed. It seems certain to prove a hit with well-heeled customers. But, again, Lyons is thinking bigger. 

“We’re left with a car which I think will be absolutely iconic when people look at the massive, existential challenges and changes that are coming in the transport industry.

“I think the Apricale will be a historic vehicle and it will be the start of a major, major change in transportation. As a collectible hypercar, it is unique, and I think it is a very exciting vehicle for people who collect cars. It will not only be, in performance terms, equal to anything on earth, but it will be something unique and with a unique history.”

From Hypercars to HGVs

“A year ago, we had no plan to have a follow-on from the Apricale. We certainly do intend to build other development vehicles, a heavy goods vehicle, a light commercial vehicle, and an SUV. We will be developing and prototyping those and we are always looking for manufacturing partners,” says Lyons.

The route from hypercars to HGVs and eventually aviation and marine vehicles might not seem straight forward but, for Viritech, the future is all around building a scalable platform.

“Battery electric solutions are great for ]passenger] cars, but I think that will change. But anywhere you need higher performance, whether it is long-distance, or where weight matters, you’re immediately drawn to hydrogen powertrains,” he continues.

“There isn’t really anyone else doing what we’re doing at the moment. There are companies making hydrogen powertrains but not with the focus on high performance that we have. One of the things that is very attractive about fuel cell and EV technology is that it is very scalable. You couldn’t take any internal combustion engine and gearbox and put it in a truck. You can use battery EV and fuel cell EV technology in a very scalable way.”

From speaking to Lyons, it certainly seems as though Viritech won’t be going away in a hurry.

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