Turns out hydrogen has a bright future

Korean carmaker Hyundai has been developing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles since the early 2000s, with the first test model launched in 2005. It was based on the first-generation ix35/Tucson. The crossover was updated in 2012 and went into production in 2013, becoming the first mass-produced SUV with hydrogen power. It’s been five years since then, and Hyundai is replacing the ix35/Tucson FCEV with the Nexo. Unveiled at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, the Nexo is the brand’s first fuel cell vehicle built on a dedicated platform and boasts significant performance improvements in every department. And it offers better mileage than a Tesla!

Hyundai's Hydrogen-powered Nexo Has Better Mileage than a Tesla Exterior
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The Nexo sports a brand-new design that combines the company's familiar styling language with a few unique cues

The Nexo sports a brand-new design that combines the company’s familiar styling language with a few unique cues. The front fascia is similar to the recently launched Kona, including the slender headlamps and large lights in the bumper, but it has a new grille with a wider top section and more rounded sides. The profile is rather sporty when compared to the Tucson thanks to the swoopy beltline, the coupe-like roof, and the sculpted side skirts. The rear section is pretty simple and very SUV-specific, but it somewhat unique in the Hyundai lineup. The headlamps have an interesting LED pattern, while the bumper includes a massive license plate recess that mimics the shape of the front grille.

The cabin layout is clean and simple. I can see a few Kona features on the dashboard, but the Nexo’s cabin is very original. The center console is taller than in most small SUVs and works its way up to the center stack. There’s a big infotainment display in the center, and the instrument cluster is digital. Both screens are placed under the same hood, which makes it seem as if a wide screen stretches across more than half the dashboard. The remaining controls are placed on the center console. If you ask me, the latter is a bit too cluttered with buttons and knobs, and the lower dash and door panels look a bit too cheap. Technology-wise, it comes with new Lane Following Assist, Blind-spot View Monitor, and Remote Smart Parking Assistant. The SUV is also supposed to power household applications, a feature that Hyundai wants to demo at CES.

Better Range than a Tesla

Hyundai's Hydrogen-powered Nexo Has Better Mileage than a Tesla Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Unlike the Tucson, the Nexo rides on its own architecture. This is proof that Hyundai’s hydrogen program has finally matured and it is ready to become a mainstream thing. On top of the new platform, the Nexo sports a lighter, more compact hydrogen powertrain and a more powerful electric motor. The power density of the stack was increased by 50 percent, and system efficiency went up 5.1 percent compared to the Tucson FCEV. The motor is smaller and contains fewer moving parts for enhanced efficiency and reliability, while the hydrogen tanks are 36 pounds lighter than those in the Tucson FCEV.

The electric motor cranks out 120 kW (161 horsepower) and 291 pound-feet of torque, up from the previous 100-kW (134-horsepower) and 221-pound-foot rating. The new drivetrain needs 30 seconds to get going, a full 60 seconds less than the Tucson FCEV. The hydrogen tanks can also store more fuel. While the previous crossover had a capacity of 140 liters (37 gallons), the Nexo can carry 156 liters (42 gallons). Likewise, the sprint from 0 to 60 mph decreased from 12.5 to 9.9 seconds, while mileage increased from 295 miles to 370 miles. Hyundai claims in a real-world run from Los Angeles to Las Vegas; the Nexo returned a 360-mile range. Bye-bye range anxiety! Refueling the tanks takes only five minutes.

The 370-mile range makes the Nexo the most efficient production car that uses an electric motor on the market right. It even trumps the Tesla Model X by 75 miles. The all-electric SUV is good for 237 miles in base trim, while the most efficient version, the 100D, provides up to 295 miles on a single charge. A bit ironic given that Elon Musk said that hydrogen fuel cell technology is "incredibly dumb."

The Nexo will be available in select markets later this year, but there’s no word on production output and pricing yet.

Hyundai Nexo Tesla Model X
Power 135 kW
Fuel Cell 95 kW
Battery 40 kW 75 kWh to 100 kWh
Motor 120 kW (161 HP) 417 - 518 HP
Torque 291 LB-FT 387 - 485 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 9.9 seconds 6 seconds
Range >370 miles estimated 237-295 miles (depending on trim)


Hyundai Nexo

Hyundai's Hydrogen-powered Nexo Has Better Mileage than a Tesla Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Hyundai Nexo.

2016 Tesla Model X Wallpaper quality
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Read our full review on the 2017 Tesla Model X.

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Read more CES news.

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Read more Hyundai news.

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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