Hyundai sees Europe as a key market for its Nexo fuel cell car because the region has more advanced plans than other global markets to expand its refueling infrastructure.
The scarcity of places to refuel is a big obstacle to sales of fuel cell vehicles, just as the lack of charging stations is a problem for the widespread adoption of full-electric cars. Fuel cell cars have two advantages over EVs: a longer driving range and a much shorter refueling time.
The Nexo offers a full-tank driving distance of 800 km (nearly 500 miles), according to the NEDC testing regime and 600 km in real-driving conditions, Hyundai says. That is 200 km longer than its predecessor, the fuel cell version of the Tucson/iX35 SUV. The Nexo can be refueled in five minutes, much faster than it takes to charge an EV's battery pack.
The Nexo will be a low-volume vehicle, but it's a key part of Hyundai's push into green cars. It is also a technological showcase with advanced safety equipment including a surround view camera blind-spot monitor, which Hyundai says is an industry first, as well as the automaker's first application of auto-steering lane-keeping assistance.
Hyundai predicts that the Nexo will sell in much larger numbers than the Tucson/ix35 fuel cell but did not give specific numbers, saying only that globally it expects sales of "several thousand" annually. The automaker sees Germany as one of the most promising markets because a nationwide hydrogen infrastructure project for fuel cell vehicles aims to have 400 refueling stations in operation by 2025, up from 30 now. France and Switzerland will also be interesting markets, executives said.
Hyundai says the Nexo overcomes cold-start issues that have been a problem with fuel cell cars. The Nexo can start in 30 seconds at temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius, compared with minus 4 Celsius for the Tucson, a better achievement than its rivals, Hyundai says. The fuel cell stack's durability has been improved to 5,000 hours from 800 hours, said Sae Hoon Kim, Hyundai's head of fuel cell vehicle development. This is the same level of durability as a vehicle with an internal combustion engine, Hyundai says. The advances gave the automaker the confidence to offer customers a 10-year warranty on up to 160,000 km of driving.
The Nexo is built on a new dedicated fuel cell platform, which gives it greater power and better driving dynamics than the Tucson/iX35. The output of the Nexo's electric motor is 120 kilowatts, (equivalent to 161 hp), up from 100 kW.