2019 Hyundai Nexo Crossover: A Fuel Cell Car That’s High on Luxury and Innovative Technology

Hyundai Nexo Fuel Cell Car

Why I’m so exited by a car you can’t have. Yet.

You might think of Hyundai as a value brand that offers a lot of great technology and more features for your money in classically designed cars and SUVs.

But a look into the next era of Hyundai shows the brand’s dedication to being a critical part of our future.

Hyundai kicked off its latest chapter with the introduction of the Nexo fuel cell crossover. Recognizing that drivers want crossovers for better visibility and flexible space for cargo and passengers, and that we want to have less impact on our environment, the Nexo was born.

Hyundai Nexo Fuel Cell Car

The front cabin of the Hyundai Nexo; notice the space below the center console where I was able to stash my laptop. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology: The Gas of the Future

Hyundai actually stepped into this realm a few years ago by adding a fuel cell version of its popular Tucson SUV to the lineup — a $499 a month lease that included the cost of fuel. Fuel cell cars operate on hydrogen, producing only water vapor instead of carbon emissions. Fueling a hydrogen fuel cell car can be a challenge, though; there aren’t many fueling stations.

But the number is growing and many states have initiatives to increase their numbers. While hydrogen still needs to be delivered by a delivery truck to a fueling station, it only takes water and electricity to generate—in theory, no fossil fuels are needed to make it. And when you hook up the pump to your car? It takes only about 5 minutes to fill your tank, the same as filling up with gas.

Further Reading: Where fuel efficiency is born: on the race track

Hyundai Nexo Fuel Cell Car

Hydrogen fueling: The pump, the station, the fuel port and the access pass that allows you to drive in California’s HOV lane even when you don’t have passengers. Photos: Scotty Reiss

Driving a Fuel Cell Car: How Much Does it Cost?

This is a good question with fuzzy answer. Hyundai hasn’t released pricing yet but the expectation is that Nexo will be priced similarly to the Toyota Mirai, also a luxury-level car built on a Lexus base, which sells for about $58,000 with three years of fuel included. Toyota hands you a charge card to pay for fuel. The Mirai can be leased for $349 a month, fuel included.

It’s expected that Hyundai will price the Nexo similarly and will include fuel, but pricing hasn’t been announced yet. Nexo will be available for sale anywhere buyers want to buy it, but it will most likely only find buyers in California where there are 35 hydrogen fueling stations.

It’s also anticipated that Nexo, when it’s available at dealers in 2019, will qualify for $7500 in federal tax incentives, $5,000 in California incentives and it will qualify for California’s Access pass, a prized sticker that allows drivers access to the HOV lane at all times, not just when they have a car full of passengers. 

Having fuel included is a great thing, no matter the fuel you use. But filling up a fuel cell car can be pricey (for now), so manufacturers take this into consideration: the Nexo takes about 5KG of fuel to fill up, and at about $17 a kg, that’s nearly $100. But, you’ll go 380 miles on that tank.

Further Reading: The Toyota Mirai takes alternative fuel cars upscale

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Taking its Place Next to Tesla: Modern Design and Tech That Wows

Technology is a luxury in its own right when it is intuitive, serves you and strives to go beyond the expected. When it makes your friends want to hop in your car because it’s so cool, well, all the better. 

Recognizing that drivers who buy into new technology need the whole package — elegant details, modern designs and cutting edge technology — Nexo is set to challenge Tesla and Toyota’s Mirai for buyers who want it all.

Hyundai Nexo Fuel Cell Car

The rear end of the Nexo; the tail lights and bumper are a departure from the Hyundai designs of the past. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Nexo’s Design: Hyundai’s Future Look?

A crossover with classic lines and a newly refined front grille and rear lights, Nexo has a modern, classic appeal. In some ways it’s a departure from the current look of Hyundai. On the outside the design is defined by a line of elegant and sparkly lights that along the front grille. In the rear the tail lights are a bit more sublime, a shimmering wink of lights.

Inside, the center console and arm rest are completely rethought. The center console is at wrist-height when your elbow is resting on the arm rest, and it’s tilted so you can see and reach everything easily. This alone is reason for me to hope that the design makes its way into Hyundai’s other cars and SUVs; it was all very elegant and modern.

Further Reading: Why hydrogen fuel cell cars are the future

Hyundai Nexo Fuel Cell Car

The center console in the Nexo is a sleek and angled command center. Photo: Scotty Reiss

This New Look Says Luxury, Not Just Value

The Nexo takes the luxury design inspiration a step further with a flat screen that spans the dashboard with an elegant sweep of graphics and information. The design of the infotainment screen and the center console harken more to designs you’d find in Jaguar Land Rover or Alfa Romeo than a value brand car. This is all part of Hyundai’s future vision.

Another feature you’ll only find on luxury cars are the pop-out door handles. Similar to Tesla or Range Rover, Nexo’s door handles retract flush with the door panels when not needed. But click the key fob and they extend. THAT is service!

Hyundai Nexo Fuel Cell Car

My drive partners John and Jerome. Photo: Scotty Reiss

No Compromises in Space; the Nexo is Roomy and Comfortable

Until now many ultra fuel efficient cars assume you’re the only one driving it—and that’s why efficiency is so important. But in reality, we need room for our crew. Kids, road trips,

Hyundai Nexo Fuel Cell Car

The Nexo’s wide, flat screen is a departure from the infotainment screens of the past; Apple CarPlay mirrirs my iPhone. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Luxury of Tech: Being There First And Best

Nexo features next-generation semi-autonomous driving technology. As in, it will park itself for you. While you stand and watch. Outside the car. (You do need to be in close proximity, we learned when testing this out).

Here’s how it works:

Hyundai Nexo Fuel Cell Car

The Nexo’s fuel management screen. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Future of Fuel Cell: Power Your House With Your Car (Isn’t That a Luxury???)

You read that right. Imagine one of those awful weather disaster days when you arrive home after storms pounded your neighborhood. Everything is in tact—hopefully— except the electricity. So, you connect your car to your house and voila, the lights are on, the microwave works and you can message your family on the wifi to tell them all is well.

That is the goal of Hyundai’s leadership; Hyundai was one of eight companies to launch the Hydrogen Council, missioned with defining the future of this promising fuel source. Two years after the council was founded, it has 54 members including 6 other auto makers as well as several fuel companies, engine makers and others in the auto business. The mission of the organization is to build a hydrogen economy to replace the one driven by fossil fuels.

And isn’t it good to know that Hyundai’s goal isn’t just to put you in a beautiful car that gets you from one place to another, but that keeps you comfy, happy, safe, and when you need it, can power not just your journey, but your life?

Hyundai Nexo Fuel Cell Car

The view from the driver’s seat in the Hyundai Nexo. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Disclosure: I was Hyundai’s guest to test drive the Nexo; travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss