First drive: Hyundai's hydrogen-powered Nexo tested on Kiwi roads
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Hyundai New Zealand is spending big money promoting a vehicle we can neither buy or refuel in this country, the hydrogen fuel cell Nexo SUV.
The company has two of the futuristic vehicles in the country, and Driven spent two days driving one of them in Fiordland this week.
The ultra clean zero emission vehicles are part of Hyundai New Zealand’s efforts to promote alternatives to mainstream fossil-fuelled petrol and diesel models.
The hydrogen-fuelled models will not become a viable option until there is a refuelling network in place across the country.
But hydrogen is being examined as a way of helping New Zealand reduce its carbon emissions and meet international climate change commitments.
Hydrogen is said to be ideal for larger commercial vehicles that currently depend on diesel engines. It is considered suitable for heavy haulage trucks and buses especially.
A pilot plant to produce hydrogen using just air and water ( highly compressed) through electrolysis has been mooted for Taranaki, and Ports of Auckland is working on a possible hydrogen refuelling depot in Auckland.
Hyundai New Zealand general manager Andy Sinclair says hydrogen fuel cell vehicles would help decarbonise this country.
Two Nexo SUVs have been in the country for most of this year, and a third is on its way here.
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The company has built its own small hydrogen refuelling plant in Auckland, buying hydrogen produced for other commercial users at a plant in Glenbrook.
It transported the two SUVs to Fiordland to demonstrate the models to journalists this week.
The Nexo is a conventional looking SUV, although its design includes many features that make it aerodynamically efficient, such as door handles that retract when the vehicles are moving.
It is powered by three hydrogen fuel cell cylinders, two that sit in front of the rear axle, and one behind the axle, beneath the rear compartment of the SUV. Unlike pure electric-powered vehicles, it can be refuelled quickly. The Nexo can be refuelled in less than six minutes.
Andy Sinclair says it is too early to say how much the Nexo would cost here, but it is already sold in markets where networks of hydrogen refuelling stations have been established, such as in South Korea and California.
“The exact date for Nexo going to market in New Zealand ultimately depends on New Zealand's ability to provide the infrastructure for the hydrogen fuelling stations," he said.
"We are taking expressions of interest from commercial businesses that are investing in their own hydrogen infrastructure and who would like to be an early adopter of this technology."
The Nexo is smooth and confident on the road, and handles as well as the most popular of the latest-model SUVs on the market.
The range and efficiency of the vehicle is impressive - it can travel 605km on one refuel, and produces zero carbon emissions during driving.
Performance is good, although not as instant as you experience in a pure electric vehicles. The Nexo can travel from zero to 100km in a respectable 9.2 seconds.
Inside the Nexo is an almost flat centre console with around 40 different buttons and functions, including the electronic handbrake. It is laid out like the cockpit of a jetliner.
Hyundai New Zealand seems confident that commercial transport operators with large fleets are pressing for the hydrogen option to be available here, and once the required infrastructure is in place, vehicles like the Nexo will be a popular choice for private buyers looking for an ultra-clean luxury SUV alternative to fossil-fuelled models.
Driven will have more details about the Nexo and other alternative fuelled Hyundai models in coming weeks.