Hyundai has been part of the handful of automakers pushing fuel cell electric vehicles for years now. The Hyundai Nexo is its latest effort to go up against competition from the Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, as well as upcoming models from the likes of Mercedes-Benz. This time, Hyundai’s fuel cell vehicle is armed with a bigger range and new driver assistance tech.
Unveiled Monday at CES, the Nexo picks up the space left by the Tucson FCEV, Hyundai’s first attempt at a mass-produced hydrogen-powered vehicle that was available for customers in some parts of North America, Europe and Asia to lease. While the Nexo has similar proportions to the current Tucson compact SUV, it sits on its own platform that Hyundai says allows for the powertrain and fuel tanks to be better packaged, as well as a reduction in weight. This enables more passenger space, better aerodynamics and improved acceleration and efficiency.
Compared to the Tucson FCEV, Hyundai says the Nexo has a 20 percent better 0-60 mph time and has a top speed that’s 25 percent higher than the old car. While that 0-60 time is down to 9.5 seconds and well off that of the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell’s, it’s at least in the ballpark of something like a Toyota Prius. And, of course, that level of performance allows for a range of 370 miles before you need to stop at a hydrogen filling station (nearly all of which are in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay areas right now) for five minutes to fuel up and keep going.
Hyundai is also using the Nexo to launch some of their new driver assistance technologies. The Remote Smart Parking Assistant allows drivers to park or retrieve their vehicle by pressing a button in the vehicle or through an app, with the Nexo moving autonomously for a limited distance. Companies such as BMW and Tesla have marketed similar technology.
The Nexo also introduces a lane following system and Highway Driving Assistant to a Hyundai model, allowing the vehicle to stay centered in its lane at up to 90 mph without the need to follow another vehicle. Hyundai says the driving assistant also uses sensors and map data to automatically adjust speed if necessary. But for actively changing lanes or parking, a wide-angle camera for the blind spot monitor covers areas not seen by traditional mirrors.
Hyundai says the Nexo will be available in select markets early this year. The company previously marketed the Tucson FCEV in California, and the related ix35 Fuel Cell in 11 European countries, Australia and South Korea. Expect similar availability for the Nexo, although automakers marketing fuel cell vehicles are pushing for more filling stations in more markets. It may prove a more attractive proposition to rivaling Honda and Toyota fuel cell sedans because its SUV shape offers more practicality and a style many new car shoppers are looking for.
The Nexo is also one of 18 “eco-friendly models” Hyundai will launch globally by 2025, already kicked off by the Ioniq line of plug-ins and hybrids. Like many automakers, Hyundai is exploring many options as internal combustion engines face an uncertain future.