Update: ‘New Hyundai Nexo postponed’ section added.
Introduced in January 2018, the Hyundai Nexo was the Hyundai Motor Group’s technological marvel last decade. While HMG is planning a big wave of BEVs with the E-GMP platform, starting with the Ioniq 5, Kia EV6 & Genesis GV60, it is not losing focus of its standalone FCEV. The company plans a massive upgrade for the Hyundai Nexo, which as per an estimate, took 70 percent of the global FCEV market in 2020. HMG will employ its third-generation fuel cell system in the 2024 Hyundai Nexo, but it seems that the development of the car has not been without its challenges. Here’s what we know about Hyundai’s hydrogen-powered SUV:
Third-gen fuel cell system
During the Hydrogen Wave event on September 7, 2021, Hyundai Motor Group unveiled its third-generation fuel cell system, with a plan to commercialize it in 2023. That’s the same year the company plans to launch the new Hyundai Nexo and the Hyundai Staria Fuel Cell MPV. A large fuel cell SUV will follow in 2025.
There are two versions of HMG’s third-generation fuel cell stack: 100 kW and 200 kW. The 100 kW version is for passenger vehicles, and the 200 kW version is for heavy-duty vehicles. The former, which will power the new Hyundai Nexo, is 30% smaller than the second-generation stack of the 2018-2022 Hyundai Nexo.
Compared to Nexo’s system, the 100 kW version (of the third-generation fuel cell system) is significantly smaller as we reduced its volume by 30%, which ultimately improves vehicle packaging. Compared to Nexo’s system, the 200 kW version (of the third-generation fuel cell system) is almost the same in size but with twice the output. This version was developed for commercial trucks.Saehoon Kim, Executive Vice President and Head of Fuel Cell Center, Hyundai Motor Group (Hydrogen Wave – September 7, 2021)
The third-generation fuel cell system is still in the prototype stage, and by the time it goes into mass production, it will have more refined specifications compared to what HMG showcased at Hydrogen Wave. It will be more durable, allowing a longer vehicle lifecycle. The present-day industry standard for the durability of fuel cell stacks is 5,000 hours, which is comparable to the 10-year lifecycle of passenger cars. HMG is targeting a 50-100% increase in durability for its third-generation fuel cell system. It expects the price of the fuel cell stack to be reduced by over 50% in the coming years.
The third-generation fuel cell stack going into the 2024 Hyundai Nexo will be significantly more efficient and thus lead to an increased range. The range could be close to 500 miles, which would be a huge improvement over the current model.
In October 2020, South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited the Hyundai Motor Group (HMG) Ulsan plant and interacted on the Hyundai Nexo with company officials. When he asked about the Nexo’s range while touring the production line that builds the powertrain, a company official said that the hydrogen fuel cell electric crossover has three hydrogen tanks and can drive 609 km (378 miles) in one go.
Adding to the employee’s response, Euisun Chung, Chairman, HMG, told the President that the company plans to increase the range of the Nexo remarkably. Below were exactly his words:
I plan to increase it (Hyundai Nexo range) to 800 km (497 miles) in the future.Euisun Chung, Chairman, Hyundai Motor Group, talking to South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the production line of the Hyundai Nexo.
Providing a circa-500-mile range in the 2024 Hyundai Nexo, HMG would make a big statement to the world that hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles are undoubtedly the future beyond battery electric vehicles. Increasing the Hyundai Nexo range from 378 miles to close 497 miles, which would be almost 500 miles, would mark a whopping 31% improvement.
In the U.S., EPA estimates that the Hyundai Nexo has a range of up to 380 miles. The hydrogen SUV has a tank capacity of 41.4 gallons. A compact 1.56 kWh Lithium-ion battery supplies during acceleration and also stores the electricity generated by the regenerative braking system. Using the electricity from the fuel cell stack and the battery, the motor spins the wheels.
500-mile FCEVs are a reality today. In Japan, the 2021 Toyota Mirai FCEV can travel approximately 850 km (WLTC) on a full tank, which converts to 528 miles.
V2L coming to the Hyundai Nexo
An ETNews report suggests that the new Hyundai Nexo will feature V2L (Vehicle to Load) function. Hyundai Mobis, Hyundai Motor Group’s in-house parts company, has developed this technology, as per the report. “In order to secure advanced technology, we have also secured charging technology using hydrogen fuel cells,” a Hyundai Mobis official said.
V2L allows supplying the power of the vehicle’s energy source (hydrogen fuel cell in this case) to an external device, like a home appliance, for instance. It can be instrumental during disasters and emergencies when there’s a power cut. Toyota offers this feature in its hydrogen FCEV Mirai, launched in an all-new avatar (second generation) in Japan in December last year.
Hyundai Nexo N variant now a realistic possibility
Hyundai has indicated that hydrogen-powered cars could have an N high-performance variant. This might become possible in the new Nexo. Speaking at the Hyundai N Day on April 28, 2021, Thomas Schemera, Executive Vice President, Head of Customer Experience Division, Hyundai, said:
Ever since we presented the hydrogen-powered N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo concept, sustainable driving fun has been N’s way of realizing Hyundai’s vision of “Progress for Humanity.” Now it’s time to make that vision become reality, no matter whether it’s battery electric or fuel cell electric or even more interestingly, a combination of both!Thomas Schemera, Executive Vice President, Head of Customer Experience Division, Hyundai (Hyundai N Day 2021)
Hyundai N hydrogen-electric hybrid
Schemera talked about possible alternative energy powertrains for future Hyundai N models with other company executives at the Hyundai Elantra N world premiere on July 14, 2021.
“Hydrogen, I guess, is a very interesting thing to combine and to find the right idea in the future to come,” Schemera said. In response, Albert Biermann, the former President and Head of R&D Division, Hyundai/Kia, said:
Maybe you remember our MECA proto car with the fuel cell in the front and high-power PE battery-electric system in the rear. With our modular fuel-cell system? We can make a nice package, I think.Albert Biermann, former President and Head of R&D Division, Hyundai/Kia
Hyundai could develop its hydrogen-electric powertrain through motorsports. “We have hydrogen technology, and I think the combination, hydrogen and battery electric, E-GMP, that is a very sustainable and enjoyable N driving even in endurance racing. Let’s go for it,” Biermann said. “Way to go. Let’s make it happen,” Till Wartenberg, Vice President and Head of N Brand Management & Motorsport Sub-division, Hyundai, responded.
Hyundai Nexo Robo-taxi
Hyundai is developing a robotaxi on the basis of the Nexo hydrogen fuel-cell SUV, The Korea Herald reported on June 10, 2021. The company aims to put the Nexo robotaxi into service by 2023.
A Hyundai official has revealed that the company is currently designing the hydrogen fuel-cell self-driving taxi. “The exterior currently has cameras and sensors protruding from it, so we’re working on it. The model will be ready for mass production in one to two years,” the official said.
In the U.S., Hyundai plans to make an Ioniq 5 robotaxi for the local market. Motional, a joint venture of Aptiv and Hyundai, announced on March 2021 that it would offer a modified Ioniq 5 with Level 4 autonomous driving as a robotaxi. Motional plans to provide its first robotaxi through the Lyft app from 2023.
Efforts to boost hydrogen FCEV sales
While Hyundai develops more efficient hydrogen FCEV models, Hyundai Mobis is preparing to support the product expansion through increasing fuel cell production capacity. It plans to open two new fuel cell plants in South Korea with an investment of USD 1.1 billion. Mass production at the new factories will begin in the second half of 2023, and at full capacity, they should be able to produce 100,000 hydrogen fuel cells every year. Hyundai Mobis held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new plant that will manufacture hydrogen fuel cell stacks in Incheon on October 7, 2021.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., under an agreement called Project Neptune, Hyundai has given Shell a commitment to support the expansion of its hydrogen refueling network in California by improving fuel cell vehicle sales. Shell plans to build 48 new hydrogen refueling stations and upgrade two hydrogen refueling stations in the state.
Next-gen Hyundai Nexo postponed
According to a report sedaily.com published on June 29, 2022, Hyundai postponed the launch of the new Nexo from 2023 to 2024. The article suggests that the development of the third-gen hydrogen fuel cell system isn’t up to the mark yet and says that Hyundai doesn’t see it achieving the targeted level of performance by 2023. The company will need more time to bring it up to the set standard.
Initially, Hyundai planned to start the production of the new Nexo in H2 2023. The report says that the Nexo’s sales have plummeted mainly overseas. Between January and May 2022, Hyundai sold 3,978 units in the domestic market but only 119 units abroad. A company official said that Hyundai is closely examining various situations/circumstances and hasn’t set a launch timeline for the new Nexo yet. South Korean media expects the current Nexo to receive a normal (presumably model year 2023) update before the new Nexo replaces it in 2024.
Featured Image Source: Hyundai