New-generation hydrogen SUV has better mileage than Tesla Model X

Hydrogen fuel cell technology has been making headlines in the auto industry for a few decades now, with many claiming it’s the future of the fossil-free automobile. However, unlike the electric car market, the hydrogen segment has evolved rather slow, with most automakers opting to stay away from the big development costs and the expensive carbon-fiber fuel tanks. Until Toyota debuted the Mirai, Hyundai was the only company that actually launched a production model. The ix35 FCEV, also known as the Tuscon FCEV in some markets, was introduced in 2013. After several tests, full-scale production began in 2015 and examples were delivered in more than 20 countries worldwide. Come 2018 and Hyundai wants to take things up a notch with a brand-new model, called the Nexo.

Introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show, the event where automakers launch their high-tech products for a few years now, the Nexo will replace the ix35/Tucson FCEV. And the new hydrogen-powered EV is a significant departure from its predecessor. Not only riding on a new platform, it also features a unique design, a brand-new interior, and bespoke technology. And unlike many vehicles we usually see at the Consumer Electronics Show, the Nexo is ready to go into production and will become available in select markets later in 2018. Let’s find out more about Hyundai’s next-generation FCEV in the review below.

Continue reading to learn more about the Hyundai FCEV.

Exterior

  • New, original exterior design
  • Sporty profile
  • Clean rear end
  • Still familiar
2019 Hyundai Nexo Exterior
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While the front fascia borrows some cues from the Kona, the main grille is completely new

The Nexo sports a fresh design language that’s also somewhat unique in the Hyundai lineup. This is major news because it’s Hyundai’s first attempt at a stand-alone hydrogen model and a significant departure from the previous FCEV, which was identical to the standard Tucson on the outside.

While the front fascia borrows some cues from the recently unveiled Kona, including the slim headlamps and the large light units in the bumper, the main grille is completely new. Whereas most current Hyundais have the traditional trapezoidal grille that’s wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, the Nexo features a reinterpretation of the design with a significantly wider top section and rounded sides. The corners also have sharp angles, especially at the bottom, which makes it similar to Lexus’ aggressive-looking "spindle" grille.

2019 Hyundai Nexo Exterior
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While it may not be as exotic-looking as the Toyota Mirai, the Nexo is by no means boring

The profile is pretty much every SUV out there with clean lines and a high beltline. The curved side skirt and the grey insert just below the doors are a nice touch though and set it apart from the rather boring norm. The five-spoke, two-tone offset wheel design reminds me of the 1980s, but it all works very well with the overall styling. The roof sits relatively low for a sporty stance and morphs a coupe-like shape toward the rear. The rear section is rather generic with taillights that become narrower as they progress toward the badge, a clean tailgate design, and a simple bumper with a big license plate recess that mimics the shape of the front grille. The rear window provides good visibility for such a small SUV.

Needless to say, the Nexo is far from revolutionary design-wise, but I like the fact that Hyundai created almost everything from a clean sheet. Definitely better than dropping an alternative drivetrain into an existing model. And while it may not be as exotic-looking as the Toyota Mirai, the Nexo is by no means boring.

Exterior Dimensions

Hyundai Nexo Hyundai Tucson FCEV
Length 183.9 inches 173.6 inches
Width 73.2 inches 71.7 inches
Height 64.2 inches 65.2 inches
Wheelbase 109.8 inches 103.9 inches

Interior

  • Unique layout
  • Digital instrument cluster
  • Somewhat cluttered center stack
  • Cheap-looking lower dashboard
  • Industry-first Lane Following Assist
  • Autonomous parking
  • Blind-Spot View Monitor features
  • Enhanced cabin space
2019 Hyundai Nexo Interior High Resolution
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The cabin layout is also unique to this model and the styling is clean and simple for the most part

The cabin layout is also unique to this model and the styling is clean and simple for the most part. While there are a few Kona-inspired features, especially on the dashboard, the Nexo’s cabin is very original. The center console is taller than in most small SUVs and descends from the center stack toward the center tunnel at a 30-degree angle. There’s a big infotainment display in the center of the dash,while the instrument cluster is fully digital.

Hyundai didn’t have much to say about them, but both screens seem intuitive and easy to use based on how they display information. Also, both are placed under the same long hood, which makes it seem as if a wide screen stretches across more than half the dashboard. If this layout seems familiar it’s because we’ve already seen it in the recently unveiled, third-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS.Pretty cool!

2019 Hyundai Nexo Interior High Resolution
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There’s a big infotainment display in the center of the dash,while the instrument cluster is fully digital

The center console holds a number of buttons and knobs for the HVAC and other systems found in modern cars. But despite most features being accessible via the infotainment display, the latter is a bit too cluttered for a modern car that wants to impress. Another feature I don’t like in the Nexo is the lower dash and door panels, which look cheap due to the gray plastic. It’s something I used to see in many old Hyundais and I’m a bit disappointed to find the same thing in a vehicle launched in 2018.

Technology-wise, the Nexo is well equipped. It comes with new Lane Following Assist, Blind-spot View Monitor, and Remote Smart Parking Assistant, all three making their debut.

Blind-Spot View Monitor is an industry-first feature

Blind-Spot View Monitor is actually an industry-first feature. Using a number of cameras, it displays rear and side views of the vehicle on the center display when the driver is changing lanes in either direction. Granted, the concept isn’t exactly new, but the Nexo is indeed the first vehicle to provide drivers with video footage from both sides. This basically eliminated blind spots as the cameras are able to cover areas that traditional mirrors can’t.

Remote Smart Parking Assist enables the Nexo to autonomously park and retrieve itself from a parking space

Lane Following Assist is all-new feature for Hyundai that automatically adjusts steering to help keep the car centered in lane at speeds of up to 90 mph. Highway Driving Assists uses sensors and map data to adjust speed in limited environments. Together, the two systems work as a smart auto pilot feature. Speaking of smart technology, Remote Smart Parking Assist enables the Nexo to autonomously park and retrieve itself from a parking space. This can be done with or without a driver in the car, at the push of a button.

Finally, Hyundai says that the Nexo provides more cabin space compared to the Tucson. There aren’t any figures to back that statement as of this writing, but it makes sense given that the Nexo benefits form better packaging and more compact hydrogen tanks and batteries.

Drivetrain

  • Bespoke platform
  • Lighter drivetrain
  • 161-horsepower electric motor
  • 291 pound-feet of torque
  • 0 to 60 mph in 9.9 seconds
  • 42-gallon hydrogen tanks
  • 370-mile range
  • Refueling takes only 5 minutes
2019 Hyundai Nexo Exterior
- image 756395
The Nexo rides on a bespoke platform created specifically for this model

The big news here is that the Nexo rides on a bespoke platform created specifically for this model. It’s a big step forward from the previous FCEV that used the same underpinnings as the Tucson and proof that Hyundai is taking its hydrogen program very seriously. Developing a bespoke platform for just one car is also very expensive, and not many carmakers are willing to do it. Most hybrids and electric cars usually share underpinnings with their standard siblings. That’s a big plus for Hyundai.

The new crossover is also lighter, has a better power-to-weight ratio, while the fuel cell stack and battery have more net power to send to the electric motor. The powertrain is also lighter and more compact, which translates into better efficiency and better packaging inside the cabin and in the trunk.

2019 Hyundai Nexo Exterior
- image 756419
The electric motor generates 161 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque

The electric motor generates 120 kW, which converts to 161 horsepower, and 291 pound-feet of torque. That’s an extra 27 horses and 70 pound-feet over the outgoing Tucson FCEV. The extra oomph and the lighter curb weight makes the Nexo quicker too. While the Tucson needed 12.5 seconds to hit 60 mph from a standing start, the Nexo needs only 9.9 clicks to reach the same benchmark. Hydrogen tank capacity was also increased from 140 to 156 liters (37 to 42 gallons). The Nexo also takes less to warm up for full operation, getting there in only 30 seconds, compared to the 90 seconds needed by the Tucson FCEV. This is also a best-in-segment feature, with no other hydrogen vehicle warming up as quick.

2019 Hyundai Nexo Exterior
- image 756420
The Nexo can drive for up to 370 miles before needing fill-up, 75 miles more than the Tesla Model X

Arguably the most important upgrade is the increased range. Hyundai says that the Nexo can drive for up to 370 miles before needing a hydrogen fill-up. That’s 105 miles more than the Tucson, which returned 265 miles. It’s also significantly more than the Toyota Mirai (300 miles) and just above the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell (366 miles). It’s closest battery-powered competitor, the Tesla Model X, returns up to 295 in range-topping trim. I have a feeling that Elon Musk, who said that hydrogen technology is "incredibly dumb," isn’t very happy about it.

Refueling the hydrogen tanks takes only five minutes. That’s incredibly quick compared to an electric car. Hyundai claims that the drivetrain has the same durability as an internal combustion engine. The Koreans also claim that the Nexo is capable of starting at temperatures of -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 degrees Celsius) and that the cooling system can handle temperatures exceeding 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius).

Drivetrain Specifications

Hyundai Nexo Hyundai Tucson FCEV
Fuel Cell 95 kW 100 kW
Battery 40 kW 24 kW
Torque 291 pound-feet 221 pound-feet
0-to-60 mph 9.5 seconds 12.5 seconds
Range 370 miles 265 miles

Prices

2019 Hyundai Nexo Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 756414

It’s too early to say how much the new FCEV will cost, but the big question here is whether it will be available for purchase beyond the 36-month lease program introduced with the Tucson model. The outgoing SUV is available with the lease program only, which requires 36 monthly payments of $499, plus $2,999 due at lease signing, plus fees and taxes. If Hyundai decides to sell it outside the lease program, it could cost more than $30,000 before options and rebates, but that’s not bad for a hydrogen car that comes with free fuel and free concierge maintenance.

Competition

The list of fuel cell production models is limited to just a handful of vehicles. Besides the ix35/Tucson and the limited-run Mercedes-Benz F-Cell, only two hydrogen cars are available, the Toyota Mirai and the Honda Clarity.

Toyota Mirai

2016 Toyota Mirai High Resolution Exterior
- image 577946

Previewed by the FCV, the Mirai was unveiled at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. And unlike the ix35 FCEV, it wasn’t built on an existing platform. It’s also aimed at the premium car market and significantly more expensive than Hyundai’s hydrogen vehicle. The Mirai is powered by a Toyota Fuel Cell System consisting of Toyota-developed fuel cell stack, boost converter, and high-pressure hydrogen tanks. It’s more energy-efficient than internal combustion engines and emits no carbon-dioxide. Refueling takes only five minutes when the tanks are empty and provide a driving range of around 300 miles. Accelerating from 0 to 60 mph takes nine seconds, an impressive feat for a non-conventional vehicle. The electric motor delivers 152 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque and gets its juice from a 1.6 kWh sealed nickel-metal hydride rechargeable battery pack similar to the one used in the Toyota Camry hybrid. Initially sold through a lease program only, the Mirai is now available for purchase from $57,500 before rebates. The lease program is still available at $349 per month for three years with a $2,499 fee due at lease signing. Toyota offers three years’ worth of complementary fuel.

Read our full story on the 2017 Toyota Mirai.

Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

2018 Honda Clarity Exterior High Resolution
- image 719159

Originally launched in 2008, the Honda Clarity was the first production model to use hydrogen power. It was discontinued in 2014, but Honda launched a redesigned version in 2016. The improved drivetrain includes a more compact fuel cell stack, an enhanced battery, and a more powerful electric engine. Total range with a full tank of hydrogen is 366 miles, which is the highest EPA-rated driving range of a zero-emission vehicle on the U.S. market. The EPA gives the Clarity Fuel cell an estimated fuel economy of 68 MPGe combined. Pricing for the Clarity Fuel Cell starts from $59,380 including destination but before rebates. Honda offers up to $15,000 of hydrogen fuel.

Read our full review of the 2018 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell.

Tesla Model X

2016 Tesla Model X Wallpaper quality
- image 678035

Granted, the Model X is a fully electric vehicle and doesn’t belong here as a full-fledged competitor, but I include it because there are no other hydrogen-fueled SUVs on the market as of this writing. The Model X is also a fancier proposition in terms of design, looking more aggressive and sporting a pair of "Falcon" rear doors. Tesla offers three different battery options for the SUV. First up is the 75-kWh package, which returns 237 miles per charge and enables the Model X to hit 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. The 100-kWh drivetrain increases the range to 295 miles and shaves two tenths off the 0-to-60 mph sprint. Finally, there’s the incredible P100D model which runs for 289 miles per charge and gets to 60 mph in a scant 2.9 seconds. Yes, the Model X is significantly quicker than the Nexo, but it’s also more expensive. While the base model retails from $85,500, the P100D fetches $140,000 before incentives.

Read our full story of the 2017 Tesla Model X.

Conclusion

2019 Hyundai Nexo Exterior
- image 756411

Hyundai has invested a lot of resources in the development and testing of the Tucson FCEV and its great to see that it has paid off. The new hydrogen-powered crossover is better than its predecessor in just about any department and should lead the Korean brand to great heights on the market. After all, it will be the only crossover to use hydrogen fuel cells until the competition delivers something similar. The fact that the Nexo delivers more mileage than its competitor, including the Tesla Model X, should also help attract more customers to hydrogen technology.

  • Leave it
    • * Could be expensive
    • * Limited availability

References

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Read more CES news.

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Read more Hyundai news.

2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2017 Hyundai Tucson FCEV.

Press release

Hyundai Motor today announced that NEXO will be the name of its all-new, dedicated Fuel Cell EV during a press conference at CES 2018, and disclosed Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that expand its autonomous driving potential. NEXO is the technological flagship of Hyundai’s growing eco-vehicle portfolio and marks Hyundai’s continued momentum toward having the industry’s most diverse CUV powertrain lineup.

The NEXO model will spearhead Hyundai Motor’s plans to accelerate development of low emission vehicles, in line with Hyundai Motor Group’s renewed goal of introducing 18 eco-friendly models to global markets by 2025. This new development roadmap also represents the next step for Hyundai Motor toward realizing the ultimate ambition of creating a cleaner environment through eco-friendly vehicles.

Blind-spot View Monitor (BVM)
Hyundai’s Blind-spot View Monitor is an industry-first technology. It shows drivers on a center cluster screen the rear and side views of NEXO using cameras while changing lanes in either direction. The system uses wide angle surround view monitors (SVM) on each side of the vehicle to monitor areas that cannot be seen by a traditional rearview mirror. Hyundai is the first automaker to provide drivers video footage from both sides of the vehicle.

Lane Following Assist (LFA) and Highway Driving Assist (HDA)
Lane Following Assist is an all-new technology for Hyundai and it debuts in the NEXO. LFA automatically adjusts steering to help keep NEXO centered in its lane of travel. LFA can keep NEXO centered at speeds between 0 and 90 miles per hour on both highways and city streets. When paired with Hyundai’s Highway Driving Assist (HDA) which utilizes sensors and map data to ensure safe operation as well as automatically adjust speed in limited environments, drivers will be able to traverse long distances with greater ease and improved safety.

Remote Smart Parking Assist (RSPA)
RSPA enables NEXO to autonomously park or retrieve itself from a parking space with or without a driver in the car. The RSPA system can even back a NEXO into a parking spot by itself with a touch of a button from the driver. When faced with any challenging parking scenario, NEXO drivers will be able to park with complete confidence and accuracy.

Hyundai NEXO
“Hydrogen energy is the key to building a more sustainable society. Hyundai Motor Company has already taken a lead in hydrogen technology with introduction of Tucson fuel cell,” said Dr. Woong-chul Yang, Vice Chairman, Hyundai Motor Company. “Yet as another result of this earth-saving effort, today, I am so proud to introduce to you our second-generation Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle which is a culmination of our cutting-edge technologies.”

NEXO is Hyundai’s second-generation of commercialized fuel cell electric vehicle that will be available in select markets around the world starting in early 2018. Improving upon the acclaimed Tucson FCEV, the NEXO has an estimated driving range of 370 miles, 105 more than its predecessor. Acceleration and power have increased to improve the overall performance.

Designed to handle extreme temperature and environments, the NEXO testing has proven that the vehicle is capable of starting after being subject to overnight temperatures of -20 degrees Fahrenheit. NEXO boasts cold start capability within 30 seconds which is an industry-leading achievement and the fuel cell system warms up faster for maximum performance. The NEXO also has excellent cooling performance on steep grades with temperatures exceeding 120 degree Fahrenheit.

Improvements in the air supply system, performance at high altitudes and refueling times, along with overall efficiency and fuel economy put the NEXO in a class all its own. In addition the NEXO has improved power density and durability comparable with a gasoline-powered vehicles.

Dedicated Architecture
For the first time ever, Hyundai’s fuel cell vehicle is built with a dedicated vehicle architecture. This architecture has many benefits including:

Lighter weight
Improved power-to-weight ratio
Faster acceleration from 0 to 60 mph than the Tucson FCEV
More cabin space
Allows the battery to be relocated to the trunk
Improved fuel cell system layout

NEXO vs. Tucson Fuel Cell System Architecture

NEXO’s fuel cell stack and battery have more net power to supply a more powerful motor
NEXO’s powertrain is lighter and has improved packaging
Improved hydrogen storage tanks

Powertrain Improvements

NEXO’s powertrain is lighter and takes up less space compared with Tucson FCEV
More efficient
Better module integration
Smaller
Lighter

Drivability

Peak acceleration is increased by 25 percent compared with Tucson FCEV
NEXO accelerates from 0 to 60 mph 20 percent faster than Tucson FCEV
NEXO has more torque than the Tucson FCEV

Range

NEXO has 30 percent more range than the Tucson FCEV
NEXO has an estimated range of 370 miles compared with the Tucson FCEV 265 miles

Quiet and Comfortable Driving Characteristics

NEXO maintains the quiet and comfortable driving characteristics of the Tucson FCEV
All of the NEXO’s moving parts are inside the engine bay which isolates the noise to one area

Durability

NEXO has the same level of durability as internal combustion engine vehicles

Hydrogen Storage

NEXO’s storage system is lighter than the Tucson FCEV
NEXO’s storage system has world-class storage density
NEXO can be refueled within five minutes

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