Let’s just get the Hindenburg references out of the way first, shall we? Because as soon as you tell someone you’ve driven a car powered by hydrogen, nine times out of 10 someone will mention the airship disaster within a couple of minutes. At most.
Car manufacturers, however, have looked beyond the 1937 airship disaster and started to dabble in fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) fuelled by hydrogen, as they attempt to find new ways of reducing CO2. We’ve already seen – in limited numbers – the Toyota Mirai, Honda Clarity and Hyundai ix35 on our roads, but these only represent a toe in the water (which, incidentally, is the only substance emitted by a fuel cell vehicle).
While the prospect of widespread adoption of FCVs is some way off, Hyundai is pretty serious about being at the forefront when their time comes. Serious enough to have developed its second commercially available FCV, the Nexo, arriving in the UK later this year.
Using hydrogen stored in three 52.2-litre tanks situated under the floor, the Nexo’s fuel cell stack combines it with air from its intakes and the resulting chemical reaction creates electricity that powers a motor driving the front wheels.
With energy also coming from regenerative braking, the driver has 181bhp at his disposal, which provides a 0-62mph acceleration time of 9.2 seconds. The Nexo doesn’t perhaps have the instant kick from a standing start that you find with a battery-powered EV, but it’s far from lacking in usable performance: the majority of our test drive was in highway conditions, and it cruised and overtook with alacrity.