SEOUL -- The Hyundai Nexo fuel cell vehicle marries futuristic fuel cell technology to next-generation autonomous-driving systems in a rolling showcase that aims to quash any notion the South Korean automaker is a straggler.
The zero-emission hydrogen-powered drivetrain, unveiled here Tuesday, delivers what Hyundai says is the world’s best fuel cell driving range. The autonomous-driving features include a new blind-spot detection system -- which Hyundai says is the first of its kind -- as well as the automaker’s first application of an auto-steering lane-keep assist.
Wrap all that into a sleek crossover package that taps the red-hot utility segment, and Hyundai is hoping the public sees this tech-savvy green car as a real choice -- not just a science project.
The Nexo goes on sale in South Korea later this month before reaching Europe in the late second quarter and the U.S. in the fourth quarter this year. As a fuel cell vehicle, the Nexo will undoubtedly be a low-volume player. But the new crossover marks a key step in Hyundai Motor’s plan to introduce 38 eco-cars by 2025 and commercialize Level 4 autonomy by 2021.
Indeed, using the ongoing Winter Olympics as a global stage, Hyundai upgraded a fleet of modified Nexos with Level 4 self-driving systems. Earlier this month, those Nexos drove themselves from Seoul to Pyeongchang, host city of the winter games, some 118 miles away. Hyundai called it the first time such sophisticated autonomy had been demoed with a fuel cell.
Hyundai says the Nexo bests its predecessor, the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell EV crossover, in every category. The Tucson fuel cell crossover debuted in 2013; Hyundai has managed to sell only about 800 of them cumulatively in South Korea, the U.S. and Europe.