- We drove the fuel cell car around Alzey
- Gallery: Hyundai Nexo (2021)
- Drive: An electric motor at the front with 32 to 135 kW
- Fuel cell system: hydrogen for 666 km
- Driving feeling: A bit shaky
- Cockpit: Lots of buttons, beautiful displays, no one-pedal driving
- Rear and trunk: a surprising amount of space
- Price: From 77,290 euros
- The problem with hydrogen
We drove the fuel cell car around Alzey
There aren’t too many hydrogen cars. We only have the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Nexo one. Oh yes, and the Mercedes GLC is also available in a fuel cell version, but as a plug-in hybrid car with charging option, it is already a hybrid. But otherwise? Nothing. One gets the impression that battery electric cars have won the race. The cash is bite, as the Bavarian says, when a matter is decided.
But what the heck, Hyundai invited us, and we’ve never driven a Nexo, so we tested it. We already like the look, especially with the matt gray finish. With a length of 4.67 meters, the car is a large compact SUV or a small mid-range SUV. It’s a bit bigger than the compact Ford Kuga and a bit smaller than an Audi Q5 or BMW X3 (which we classify in the middle class).
Gallery: Hyundai Nexo (2021)
Drive: An electric motor at the front with 32 to 135 kW
The Nexo is driven by an electric motor on the front axle. The permanent magnet machine (PSM) delivers 120 kW and gets the electricity from a fuel cell system under the front hood that delivers 95 kW. There is also a small battery with 1.6 kWh as a buffer, which can supply a maximum of 40 kW.
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95 kW from the stack and 40 kW from the battery together result in a system output of 135 kW. However, this can only be given for a short time, as the electric motor only has a nominal output of 120 kW. With electric motors, it’s such a thing anyway: The peak output of the electric motor is apparently at least 135 kW, it is specified as 120 kW, but the 30-minute output of the motor is only 31 according to the data sheet, 5 kW.
The drive: E-motor, stack, tanks and buffer battery (from left to right)
Fuel cell system: hydrogen for 666 km
The stack gets the hydrogen from three round, cylindrical fiberglass tanks on the rear axle. Together they store 6.3 kilos of hydrogen. In order to withstand the pressure of 700 bar, the walls are (almost unbelievable) 4.5 centimeters thick. With a WLTP consumption of 0.95 kilos per 100 kilometers, that’s enough for 666 km: a range that only the best battery-electric cars have. And refueling only takes about five minutes, while many e-cars take half an hour to recharge.
A curiosity on the side: According to Hyundai, the Nexo can clean the outside air of fine dust. In order to operate the fuel cell, it needs oxygen as well as hydrogen. (As a reminder of the chemistry class: H2 + 1/2 O2 -> H2O). It gets this from the outside air, which is filtered for this purpose. After the oxygen has been diverted, the rest of the air is then released in a clean state.
Hyundai Nexo: After 4.3 kilometers, already "2.6 kL" of air cleaned. But what does that mean? 2,600 liters?
The on-board system even indicates how much air is being cleaned with it. The display, such as "2.6 kL", Hyundai could not explain to us straight away. Should that be 2.6 kiloliters, i.e. 2,600 liters of air? That would be a bit much, because you can read this number after a little more than 4 kilometers.
Driving feeling: A bit shaky
We might just have managed the WLTP consumption of 0.95 kilos per 100 km on our test drive on the Rheinhessen country roads around Alzey, but the motorway drive at the end (with a maximum of 130 km / h) screwed up our cut.
After our test drive, the on-board computer showed a consumption of 1.1 kg of hydrogen per 100 km
In the end, the on-board computer reported 1.1 kilos per 100 kilometers; So we would have covered about 570 km – still very decent, at least in comparison with electric cars.
As far as propulsion is concerned, the Nexo is perfectly fine, and whoever comes from the gasoline engine will not miss anything. Compared to the recently driven electric BMWs (iX and i4) of course, the Nexo is a bit lacking in temperament.
While driving, there is a very subtle, whispering noise that should perhaps give the driver the feeling that something is happening when you press the accelerator pedal. We didn’t find that annoying. We only mention it because a colleague complained to us about the loud driving noise of the Mirai.
The driving experience seemed a bit shaky to us, which is probably due to the fact that there is no baggy battery in the ground that forces the car onto the road. If you’re used to electric cars, that’s missing. The easy-to-use steering may contribute to the somewhat sucking feeling. For us, one reason not to buy the car would be neither.
Cockpit: Lots of buttons, beautiful displays, no one-pedal driving
As the driver, you look at a beautiful instrument display that shows two round instruments; However, you can only configure the area in between. To the right of this is a touchscreen in landscape format. Between the front seats there is a high center console with a myriad of buttons. So we had to search a bit until we found the button for the system start: It is where the ignition lock is in older cars (directly to the right of the steering wheel).
It starts as soon as you press the D button. Otherwise there is a button for Drive Mode, where you can choose between Normal, Eco and Eco +. Depending on the mode, the accelerator pedal reacts slightly differently and the look of the round instruments is modified.
As with many BEVs, there are also rockers on the steering wheel to set the recuperation strength. There are three levels, the differences are clearly noticeable, but even with maximum energy recovery, one-pedal driving is not possible, and the Nexo does not come to a complete standstill if you let go of the gas.
Rear and trunk: a surprising amount of space
In the rear, the Nexo offers a lot of space in front of the knees, but also above the head. The trunk also surprised us positively: we had expected limited space due to the gas tanks. But nothing there, the trunk looks large and usable, and when you fold down the backrests, a nicely level loading floor is created. However, the edge of the trunk is a little high above the floor.
Price: From 77,290 euros
Last point: The Nexo is not exactly cheap with a price of 77,290 euros. You also get a BMW iX xDrive40 for this – with significantly more power, however, only a range of around 400 kilometers. Even for the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which is roughly the same size, with the large battery (and around 450 km range), you only pay around 45,000 euros.
The problem with hydrogen
But even if the Nexo were cheaper, we wouldn’t buy it. Admittedly, the range is longer than most BEVs, and you are much faster when refueling than when recharging electricity. But there are only 70 hydrogen filling stations in Germany – in comparison, the electricity infrastructure is downright dense.
There are also two fundamental problems: First, hGood hydrogen is for the most part grayer Hydrogen, which means: It is made from natural gas (methane, CH4th) obtained by steam reformation, and thereby creates CO2. And secondly, if green hydrogen is used, i.e. hydrogen from the electrolysis of water with the help of renewable electricity, then the efficiency is low. Especially when the regenerative hydrogen comes from Africa or even Australia in a tanker, frozen at -270 degrees.
More about Hyundai and hydrogen: Hyundai shows fuel cell sports sedan with 500 kW
Hyundai becomes a partner in H2 Mobility
The Hyundai Nexo has not changed our view of hydrogen: We have fundamental concerns, especially about today’s hydrogen production and the loss of efficiency. In addition, there is the small number of petrol stations. 70 petrol stations are probably only enough if you live next door and have a small radius of action or if you always commute between two petrol stations.
Otherwise, the Nexo drives well, the feeling of acceleration is similar to that of an electric car. He could have a little more temperament, but the needs are different. In contrast to the BEV, however, the Nexo looks a bit wobbly because the heavy battery in the floor is missing.
A battery with power for a range of 600 km would weigh several hundred kilos. In comparison, the hydrogen on board is lightweight at around 6 kilos, even if the weight of the tanks is added. However, the hydrogen tanks do need some space. In view of the almost 160 liter tank volume, it is remarkable how much interior and trunk space is left on the Nexo.
engine 1 front electric motor (PSM) with 120 kW (30 min power: 32 kW) and 395 Nm, fuel cell system with 95 kW
power 135 kW system output (short-term)
drive Front wheel drive
Acceleration 0-100 km / h 9.5 sec. (With 19-inch monitors)
Top speed 179 km / h (with 19-inch wheels)
consumption 0.95 kg H2 per 100 km (WLTP)
battery 1.56 kWh
length 4,670 mm
broad 1,860 mm
height 1,630 mm
Trunk volume 461-1,466 liters
Empty weight 1,889 kg
Payload 451 kg
Base price 77,290 euros
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