Hyundai Nexo revolution: the hydrogen-powered crossover

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BERNAT LÓPEZ / ©RACERZ

How poignant, just days after reading dire warnings about climate change from the UN, to be driving an alternative-fuel vehicle that promises no local emissions at all. Could hydrogen fuel-cell cars be the cars of the future?

The 2019 Hyundai Nexo aims to convince that the answer yes. Like the existing Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity, it is fueled with hydrogen and its only waste produce is water. Assuming the fuel is made using renewable electricity methods, hydrogen could be the ultimate green power source for future vehicles. And, unlike some other fuel-cell models, the Nexo doesn’t feel like you’re driving a science project.

Once the Nexo is moving, a 1.56-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery is there to accept regenerative braking energy and give the powertrain a bit more oomph. Total system power is 135 kW (95 kW from the stack and another 40 kW from the battery).

If the heart of the powertrain is the battery, then the 120-kW (161-horsepower) motor is its elegant muscle. Compared to the Tucson Fuel Cell, the Nexo has 20% more power, and a 0-60 miles per hour time that over two seconds quicker. For highway driving, the important number to note is that the hustle from 50 to 75 mph has been reduced by over three seconds.

The storage tanks can hold a total of 13.9 pounds (6.3kg) of hydrogen at 10.000psi, which together with its aerodynamic design gives the Blue-trim Nexo a range of 380 miles (611km), the longest range of any zero-emissions vehicle, according to Hyundai.

The aerodynamic optimization is actually the best external sign that the Nexo isn’t just any other modern SUV. Vents in the front bumper and air deflectors on the flat underbody ahead of the front and rear wheels work to minimize the turbulent airflow from the wheels as they rotate.

Within the cabin, the Nexo takes on a much more cockpit-like look than any other Hyundai, what with a tall center console that recalls the design of Porsche interiors. It’s littered with lots of buttons, controlling everything from the transmission to driving modes, and from infotainment to the cooled seats. Beneath the console is a storage area with a wireless phone charging pad and extra USB ports.

How about the money?

In the USA, for example, prices for hydrogen currently range from about $10 to $16 per kilogram, Hyundai says. If gas rises to, say, $5.00 per gallon and hydrogen falls to about $10/kilogram, then Hyundai claims hydrogen would start to become more economical on a per-mile basis. Either way, Nexo customers needn’t worry about the financials, as they receive a card that covers $5,000-worth of fuel – enough to drive roughly 10.000 miles – per year.