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LOS ANGELES.—A recent trip to the West Coast afforded an opportunity to drive something rather interesting: the Hyundai Nexo, the company’s new hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle. Even now I’m struggling to get my head around this obviously clever machine. Completely ignoring the elephant (element?) in the room and the fact that Hyundai still hasn’t decided how much it will cost, the FCEV is very well-executed, a fine alternative power vehicle from a company that has been building some pretty good cars of late. But at some point you have to come back to the fact that it is hydrogen-fueled, bringing all the baggage that entails into play. Hence the continuing head-scratching.
Hyundai and hydrogen actually go back two decades—the Nexo is its second-generation mass-produced hydrogen vehicle and a follow-up to the Tucson FCEV launched in 2013. But the Tucson was designed to use an internal combustion engine, and shoehorning a fuel cell stack, batteries, and pressurized storage tanks into it involved compromises. The Nexo has been designed from the ground up as an FCEV with better efficiency and more range. Well, Hyundai wants it to serve as the company’s new eco/tech flagship. And on those counts, it has delivered.