Hyundai is betting a huge chunk of its future on fuel cell vehicles; despite the fact that many automakers have not embraced the fuel cell technology, Hyundai has launched another fuel cell vehicle. The new model, dubbed “Hyundai Nexo” will replace Hyundai’s original fuel cell vehicle, the Tucson FCEV. The advance of the hydrogen technology is hindered by infrastructure which is still pitiful; for example, in the U.S., only California has substantial hydrogen fuel stations and in fact, the 2019 Hyundai Nexo will be restricted to California in the U.S market. Most automakers keep away from hydrogen fuel technology due to huge development costs, costly fuel tanks as they are made of carbon-fiber which is expensive. Since there are only a few markets with fueling infrastructure, many automakers fear they will not recoup their investments into the technology, unlike electric-powered vehicles which can even be recharged from a standard socket in one’s home. Unlike the Tucson, the Nexo presents a huge leap in this technology as it comes with enhanced capability and better performance. The Hyundai Nexo rides on a new platform and has a unique exterior design, a new interior and also features bespoke technology.
2019 Hyundai Nexo Exterior
The 2019 Hyundai Nexo has a new design which makes it unique in the automaker’s lineup, unlike the Tucson FCEV which looked identical to gasoline-powered Tucson models. The front fascia design is borrowed from the new Kona including the slim headlights as well as fog lights which are mounted on the bumper. The grille is however new and unique to the Nexo. Designers of the model redesigned the automaker’s signature trapezoidal grille; the new unit has a broader top and rounded sides. The corners of the grille have sharp angles which make it look a lot like the Lexus’ spindle grille.
On the flanks, the Nexo would not look out of place when standing side-by-side with other crossovers in the market; it has a high beltline and clean lines. It also features curved side skirts. There is also a grey insert below the doors which is a stylish addition. The Nexo rides on 5-spoke, 2-tone wheels. The roof is however low and has a coupe-like look at the rear.
At the rear, the Nexo has a basic design with taillights that are narrower towards the center of the tailgate. The tailgate itself has a clean design and the bumper design is also simple and has a huge license plate recess that mimics the front grille. The rear window is big and provides the driver with a good visibility.
In terms of size, the Nexo is larger than the Tucson FCEV; it is 183.9 inches long, 73.2 inches wide and has a height of 64.2 inches; it has a wheelbase of 109.8 inches.
The cabin is also new but it has some Kona-inspired features. At the center of the dash is a huge infotainment system. The Nexo also has a fully digital instrument cluster. Both screens are mounted on the same level making it look like a single screen that occupies over half of the dash, a design we previously saw on the new Mercedes-Benz CLS. The center console features knobs and buttons that control the HVAC as well as other functions.
The door panels and the lower dash are however uninspiring due to their gray plastic which makes them look rather cheap (Hyundai should have done better here).
The model is however well equipped on matters technology. It features a Blind-spot View Monitor, Smart Parking Assist and Lane Following Assist. Although the Blind-spot View Monitor is not a new feature, the Nexo is the first car to offer drivers a video footage from both sides.
The cabin also has more passenger and cargo space than the Tucson due to better packaging as well as compact batteries and hydrogen tanks.
Powertrain and performance
Unlike the Tucson FCEV which shared its platform with gasoline-powered Tucson models, the Nexo has a bespoke platform which shows that Hyundai is serious about its fuel cell program. Hyundai has equipped the Nexo with a new electric motor that produces 120 kW (161 hp and 291 lb-ft of torque). This is 27 hp and 70 lb-ft more than the Tucson FCEV. Due to the higher power output and its lighter curb weight, the Nexo needs 9.9 seconds to hit 60 mph, 2.6 seconds faster than the outgoing Tucson FCEV which needed 12.5 seconds to make the same run.
Hyundai also enlarged the hydrogen tank capacity to 42 gallons from 37 gallons in the Tucson. Hyundai has also enhanced the model’s warming system such that it needs only 30 seconds to warm up which is the best among all current hydrogen vehicles in the market (the Tucson needs 90 seconds).
Due to the increased tank capacity, the Nexo has a longer range, a whopping 370 miles before it needs a hydrogen refill compared to Tucson’s 265-mile range. It is also the best in the segment as the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell has a 366-mile range while Toyota’s Mirai has a 300-mile range. The Nexo also beats the Tesla Model X which has the longest range among battery-powered models at 295 miles. It only takes 5 seconds to refill the hydrogen tank which is super quick compared to recharging batteries of electric cars.
Price and release date
Hyundai displayed the 2019 Hyundai Nexo at the recent Consumer Electronics Show; unlike most vehicles at the show which usually preview automakers future vehicles, the Nexo will go into production and will be delivered in select markets sometime this year. Hyundai is yet to put a price-tag on the Nexo. The automaker could offer the model with a 36-month lease program just as is the case with the Tucson FCEV.