2017 Concept of the Year: Pininfarina H2 Speed

Pininfarina's amazing, hydrogen-powered race car blew away the competition

We gave the world motor industry every chance, from the Detroit show in January through the Mondial de l’Automobile in Paris in October — where a couple of spectacular French concept cars dazzled the local populace and impressed us as well. But from the time the Pininfarina H2 Speed appeared at the Geneva show in March, we thought it was pretty much a lock as Concept of the Year.

Consider: It’s sleek, sporty in the extreme, beautifully so in the classical Pininfarina-Ferrari racing sports-car tradition. And it embodies advanced technology that makes it an almost totally non-polluting vehicle in use — provided the hydrogen gas that generates the energy for its electric drivetrain is obtained by dissociating oxygen from water using only solar energy. That qualifier “almost” takes into account the fair amount of rubber dust that’s going to be in the air if the H2 Speed is driven to its full potential on a track.

Pininfarina H2 Speed Concept rear three quarter

Because this concept is — again, potentially — a racing sports car, it appears to respect the rules and regulations imposed on Le Mans racers. Were it to be fully developed for competition it would look pretty much the same as it does here, apart from a racing team’s typical surfeit of logos, decals, and a paint scheme that might clutter but not completely obscure the pure lines and forms that delight the eye on this lovely show car.

The H2’s shape is the result of some sketches that embraced the idea of juxtaposing a pair of long, thin triangles. Their points overlap, leaving a pinched center section into which design vice president Fabio Filippini and his team inserted the big cylindrical, spherically ended hydrogen tanks. Not only are the tanks external to the cockpit, they also serve as side impact protection, similar to the sidepods of Formula 1 cars. Air entering the front serves to cool both electronic components and the front brakes, then exits along the body’s flanks.

There is a downforce-generating wing on the rear that intersects the high, central stability fin and is capped at its tips by plates that rise out of the rear deck area. Air ingestion for the rear is taken both above the cockpit by a central scoop and just ahead of the leading edge of the wing, but well below it, by forward-facing bodywork openings. There is a melding of forms that is quite “biological,” with two dramatic hard lines; one follows the rear fender profile peak, the other derives from the trailing edge of the front fender air tunnel. It then rises and moves inward to the body’s narrowest section, then dips rearward as it turns outward to cover the hydrogen tanks.

Several of us at the Geneva show were mesmerized by the H2’s convoluted yet soft and flowing surfaces, and we hope something attainable will come from this truly fascinating Concept of the Year.

Design Analysis

2017 Concept of the Year Pininfarina H2 Speed

1. The fender profile is especially elegant, and from this low viewpoint you can’t see the hard line leading to the rear air inlets. Too bad. They’re elegant, too.

2. The door cut is a bit convoluted, and it must be very difficult to enter the cockpit, with its high sides requiring one to step over the tanks. But it is a racer, not a daily driver.

3. The windshield shape is reminiscent of the earliest (and prettiest) Learjets in the 1960s.

4. This hard, crisp line is part of the lower body’s strong graphic design.

5. Outer portions of the inlet openings lean forward at the bottom, describing a very complex intersection of the theoretical full body form.

6. The hydrogen pressure vessels are shrouded by a fairing that introduces a strong horizontal highlight in this sculpted form.

7. The whole side is hollow with a deep undercut from the crisp line above and an outward-leaning panel down to the sills.