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First Drive: Hyundai Nexo

The Nexo SUV brings hydrogen fuel cells a step closer to mass market appeal, explains Alex Grant.

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SECTOR Large SUV   PRICE TBA   Range 414 miles (WLTP)   CO2 0g/km

Hyundai might be setting the pace for electric vehicles with the Kona Electric, but it sees battery power as a component, rather than the solution, of a move away from fossil fuels. Its end goal is hydrogen fuel cells; long range, refuelled in a few minutes, with only water vapour from the exhaust. The Nexo marks a step towards making it mainstream.

This isn’t a new ambition. Hyundai has mass-produced the ix35 Fuel Cell since 2014, claiming a 70% share of Europe’s FCEV market. Numbers were modest, but it’s offered real-world usage data and created demand for the fuel stations future generations will need. Most customers were fleets, too.

Unlike the ix35, the Nexo is a blank-sheet model. It’s on a slightly bigger, bespoke platform, using a smaller and lighter fuel cell stack and more efficient packaging. So it’s now Audi Q5-sized, seats five (unlike the Toyota Mirai) and there’s a right-hand drive version on the way too.

For the most part, it just feels like an electric SUV; acceleration is brisk, silent and uninterrupted by gearchanges, there’s barely any wind noise over the aerodynamic bodywork, and it feels easy-going and luxurious over long distances. Which, with a range of over 400 miles, it’s possible to task it with, provided, of course, there’s a hydrogen station en route.

It’s surprisingly ordinary considering what’s happening underneath. Essentially a reversal of electrolysis, it takes in oxygen from the air, combines it with hydrogen on board, and makes water and electricity. Not only is it replacing a combustion engine, it’s cleaning the polluted air from others.

It’s not mass-market technology yet, but it’s another step in the right direction.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.