Hyundai grasps the nettle, with its second Hydrogen Fuel Cell car in the UK
Bringing the very latest in hydrogen and electric powertrain technology, with a range of up to 414 miles, writes Iain Robertson, the Nexo FCV joins the EV versions of Kona and Ioniq and the iX35 FCV as part of a 44-strong, ‘green’ Hyundai new car launch initiative by 2025.
Available in one high-specification trim, the £65,995 (unlikely to be discounted) Nexo Premium SE is a Hyundai crossover possessing distinctive design details. It is not the first fuel-cell car to be sold commercially in the UK, as that honour rests with Toyota and Hyundai has presented us with its iX35 FCV model, but Hyundai will experience the same lack-of-infrastructure refuelling problems… however, it is an important statement of intent.
As well as being quite good looking, Nexo is also very functional and designed to minimise drag, with curtain intakes in the front bumper ducting air over the aerodynamically designed front wheels, flush door handles that retract into the doors at 2mph, air tunnels around the D-pillar that channel disruptive air flow around the tailgate area and a hidden rear wiper blade that retracts beneath the rear spoiler, when not in use. The extensive aero work continues below the car, with a fully enclosed underside and front and rear wheel air deflectors. Hyundai’s aim has been to ensure that Nexo cleaves through the air with minimal fuss and maximised economy.
The car’s interior has been designed to complement the clean exterior, with cloth and faux leather electric front seats, while the rear outermost pair are also heated. Dual-zone climate control, sunroof, rear centre console ventilation, heated steering wheel, USB and QI wireless charging points and smart electric tailgate are just some of the other highlights. Nexo has also been validated independently for its use of bio materials throughout the interior, being awarded the UL Bio Environmental Seal for the use of bio fibres from sugar cane waste and vegetable plasticisers in the headliner and carpet areas. Bio plastics from sugar cane and corn waste are used in door, seat, pillar and console trims, as well as bio paint extracted from rapeseed and soybean oils for dashboard and centre console structures.
The main digital instrument cluster provides driving information, while the supervision cluster at the top of the centre stack houses a Blind Spot View Monitor, fed from the car’s door mirror-mounted cameras. Advanced connectivity and infotainment are provided, with a 12.3-inch hi-res LCD screen with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as sat-nav that can be controlled, or viewed, by ‘pinching’ the screen (as you would your mobile). It is totally configurable to driver needs and highlights both hydrogen tank operating conditions, as well as air purification and CO2 reduction levels that Nexo achieves in normal driving conditions.
Its fuel cell ‘engine’, which is hooked-up to an 40kW lithium-ion battery pack, develops a combined 160bhp and 291lbs ft torque, yet still delivers a WLTP range of 414 miles on 156-litres of hydrogen, which can be refilled in around five minutes. The only emission is harmless water vapour. Regenerative braking helps to recharge the battery pack, controlled by steering wheel-mounted paddles, to also provide a more engaging driving experience. The car’s under-bonnet Power Module Complete (PMC) combines oxygen from the surrounding air and hydrogen from Nexo’s high-pressure storage tanks, to create a flow of electrons that both powers the drive motor and charges the on-board 1.56kWh high-voltage battery. The car features an advanced air purification system, which filters 99.9% of very fine dust (PM2.5). The vehicle shows the exact amount of air purified on its central display panel.
Nexo also features the latest driver assistance and convenience features: Lane Following Assist, Lane Keep Assist, High Beam Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control, along with Remote Smart Parking Assist, by which the driver can exit the vehicle and control parallel and perpendicular parking as well as forwards and backwards manoeuvres from the car’s keyless entry handset.
Conventional MacPherson strut-type front and multi-link rear suspension helps to provide an unexceptional ride and handling compromise. It is not the most agile of cars, although its body rigidity is such that refinement levels are exceptional. Naturally, Hyundai wants to extol the virtues of the car’s engaging character but I can tell you that, while the spirit is willing and the body is not exactly ‘weak’, it does have the dynamic feel of a 1980s’ Datsun. Yet, while body control is moderate and roll is controlled, the grip provided by the 245/45 section tyres on the car’s standard 19.0-inch diameter alloy wheels is outstanding.
It is worth highlighting that the hydrogen fuel load is spread across three high-pressure tanks that, by nature, are very heavy. The Nexo tips the scales at almost 1,900kgs, which goes someway towards explaining its slightly numb handling. However, before you start worrying about the explosive qualities of those tanks, rest assured that they are significantly less flammable than most petrol, or hybrid motorcars. Even refuelling the tanks is a ‘painless’ procedure that involves locking-on the filler hose and allowing the gas to do its job of filling them. There are more stringent safety standards surrounding hydrogen fuel than any other fossil-type.
On that point, another issue rears its head, because, at present, hydrogen is not produced cleanly, as it is a by-product of cracking natural gas, which is extracted from below the earth’s surface. In turn, it surprises me that the fuel companies have not jumped on bolstering a very slim refuelling infrastructure. Ultimately, hydrogen will be obtained by cracking sea water, or other advanced chemical processes. However, it is only a matter of time before a broader acceptance of it as a fuel source is taken on-board by carmakers, fuel suppliers and the end-users opting for the technology.
Nexo is available in five exterior colour finishes, cream, silver, copper, blue and the launch colour, Titanium Grey. All exterior paint finishes are no cost options, with the interior featuring a two-tone finish. Nexo comes with Hyundai’s industry-leading 5-Years Unlimited Mileage Warranty, Roadside Assistance package, 5-Years Annual Health Check, 12-Years Anti Corrosion Warranty and 8-years Hybrid Battery Warranty.
Conclusion: Boasting good performance and safe handling, Hyundai is rolling out the carpet for its future commitment to green transport. While I applaud it, until a refuelling network is created properly, the Nexo will have only limited relevance in our market.