NEXO is the name of Hyundai’s all-new, dedicated Fuel Cell EV. It’s the technological flagship of Hyundai’s growing eco-vehicle portfolio; built on a newly developed and dedicated vehicle platform. It combines the practicality of an SUV with clean, advanced fuel cell technology and advanced autonomous driving features.
“Hydrogen energy is the key to building a more sustainable society. Hyundai Motor Company has already taken a lead in hydrogen technology with the introduction of the ix35 Fuel Cell,” said Dr. Woong-chul Yang, Vice Chairman, Hyundai Motor Company.
The Nexo is the brand’s second commercially-available hydrogen FCV, but the first built on a bespoke platform with a dedicated architecture. So compared with the ix35 FCV, of which a handful were sold in the UK and a couple hundred globally, the physically bigger Nexo is faster, lighter, safer and crucially, substantially more efficient, durable and therefore appealing. Probably no cheaper though. Such is progress.
“Hang on,” you might be thinking. “Hyundai does EVs, PHEVs and hybrids too. Is it giving up on all that and throwing its weight behind hydrogen fuel cells?” In a word, no. The Ioniq hasn’t been around all that long, and it’s a car into which Hyundai has ploughed much resource in its quest to unseat the Prius as the Uber driver’s darling. It’s going nowhere. But in a world of ever-tightening emissions targets, Hyundai has decided to hedge its bets because – in the words of company FCV boss Dr. Kim – Hyundai “cannot foresee which technology will be dominant, how the market will be or how the infrastructure will be. So we prepare everything”. By 2025 it will produce 38 ‘eco-friendly’ vehicles, two of which will be FCVs.
So alongside developing its internal combustion, hybrid and battery-electric technologies, Hyundai has been working on making hydrogen fuel cells commercially viable. The Nexo is part of this – a technological flagship for Hyundai’s fuel-cell technology, of which it hopes to sell “several thousand units a year” in select markets all over the world. It will come to Britain (in right-hand drive, unlike the ix35) in 2019 for an as-yet undisclosed sum. Its chief competitor – because it’s the only other hydrogen-powered car available in the UK
WHAT IS A FUEL CELL
A fuel cell is a device that generates electricity by a chemical reaction. Every fuel cell has two electrodes called, respectively, the anode and cathode. The reactions that produce electricity take place at the electrodes.
Every fuel cell also has an electrolyte, which carries electrically charged particles from one electrode to the other, and a catalyst, which speeds the reactions at the electrodes.
Hydrogen is the basic fuel, but fuel cells also require oxygen. One great appeal of fuel cells is that they generate electricity with very little pollution–much of the hydrogen and oxygen used in generating electricity ultimately combine to form a harmless byproduct, namely water.
How does it work:
We examine the NEXO fuel cell SUV at Hyundai’s European HQ – 500-mile range and 800-litre load space promised
The NEXO is a large SUV – bigger all round, in fact, than Hyundai’s outgoing hydrogen fuel cell car, which was based on the ix35. Unlike that car, 17 examples of which have found UK customers, the new model sits on an all-new, bespoke platform, designed to accommodate the fuel cell ‘stack’ (which converts hydrogen and oxygen into electricity, with only water as a byproduct) plus a new fuel tank configuration.
The NEXO has three 52-litre tanks, in fact – one under the front edge of the boot floor and two more beneath the rear seats. All of them operate at a pressure of 700 bar, although the car’s refuelling system is also compatible with the cheaper 350-bar standard that features at some of the hydrogen filling stations around the UK. The stack is also more efficient than the ix35’s, as well as being more compact and cheaper to produce.
Nexo will be available in the UK later in 2019, however, the infrastructure required in the UK is simply not in place at this time. The UK strategy is to first build reliable clusters of hydrogen availability, London and the South East have been the initial focus as hydrogen stations have started to become available alongside petrol and diesel pumps, However, Swindon, Sheffield, Birmingham and Derby are also getting hydrogen ready, and there is expected to be strong coverage of some 330 stations across the UK by 2025.
NEXO is a pioneering accomplishment of design and technology that makes the dream of sustainable motoring a much more realistic possibility. The car is environmentally conscious, it refuels just as quickly and simply as a combustion engine car, and it looks fantastic. All this goes to prove that Hyundai is fully committed to hydrogen and sees it as the beginning of a more sustainable future.
This is a car for early adopters now and main stream once the infrastructure is in place, a real game changer and truly environmentally sound. ONE TO WATCH CLOSELY.