Hyundai has chosen to package such a complex, innovative powertrain in the most reassuringly recognisable body it can: that of a compact crossover. At 4670mm long, 1860mm wide and 1640mm tall, the Nexo is of comparable size to a Volkswagen Tiguan or Volvo XC40 and styled in the same two-box manner.
A rising beltline meets the falling roofline to lend the shape a dose of glamour, though, and the relatively simple silhouette is adorned with aerodynamic elements. Ducts in the front bumper and D-pillar help guide air around the body and both the bladed 19in wheels and retractable door handles are there to reduce the car’s drag coefficient. Highly unusually for this class of car, the Nexo is also outfitted with an entirely flat underbody, again in the interest of reducing drag.
Beneath the body and positioned either side of the rear axle are three tanks – we’ve previously described them as ‘oversized scuba-diving cylinders’ – with a capacity of 157 litres. These are topped up via a port above the rear wheel arch and store at a pressure of up to 700 bar a total of 6.3kg of hydrogen, which is passed through a fuel cell stack along with oxygen from the ambient air. The resultant chemical reaction generates only heat, electricity and water, which exits through an exhaust tip beneath the rear bumper.
The fuel cell stack itself – consisting of an anode, a cathode and a polymer electrolyte membrane – sits in the ‘engine’ bay, along with a 161bhp electric motor that drives the front wheels using the electricity generated. The final element of the powertrain is a 1.56kWh lithium ion battery to store energy from regenerative braking and feed it back into the electric motor when required. All this hardware is new from the ix35 and, moreover, the fuel cell stack is designed and built by Hyundai rather than externally.
The refuelling process is similar to that of petrol and diesel cars, in that it takes minutes (roughly five), not hours, but a pump at a dedicated station is required. Once full, the Nexo has a WLTP range of 414 miles.
The chassis is more traditional than the powertrain, with MacPherson struts at the front, a multi-link rear and electrically assisted steering with 2.6 turns between locks. Like most battery-electric cars, the Nexo uses a single-speed transmission, with the driver able to alter the level of regenerative braking to their taste.