Given how technologically avant-garde the Nexo’s hydrogen fuel cell technology is, it’s surprising to discover that it’s not really any different to drive from some biggish electric vehicles you might come across. It responds keenly and precisely to more delicate throttle adjustments and acceleration away from a standstill or from low speed arrives with the same sense of smooth, powerful immediacy that we’ve become accustomed to from electrified powertrains. The manner in which its enthusiasm for accruing straight-line pace tails off once you push up past 60mph isn’t a foreign experience, either.
On Millbrook’s mile straight, the Nexo hit 60mph from a standstill in 9.6sec, with 20-40mph and 30-50mph being completed in rather spritely respective times of 2.8sec and 3.7sec. The journey from 60mph to 80mph, however, took a particularly leisurely 9.0sec.
So the Hyundai’s sense of strength in straight-line performance is reasonably limited in scope, but it’s certainly in the same ballpark as we’ve found in the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles we’ve road tested in previous years. The Toyota Mirai in 2016 was only a mite slower to 60mph (10.1sec), and the Honda Clarity in 2017 was marginally quicker (9.0sec). Both recorded similar times to the Nexo for 20-40mph and 30-50mph, too.
Given the proximity in price, it’s difficult not to compare the Nexo with the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace; an exercise that highlights something of a gulf between the current performance capabilities of the two approaches to zero-emissions mobility. The I-Pace we road tested last year hit 60mph from a standstill in just 4.5sec – less than half the time taken by the Hyundai.
Drivability in the Nexo is good, in the main. The severity with which the regenerative braking system recovers kinetic energy can be controlled by paddles on the steering wheel, although, oddly, the automatic regeneration management system fitted to the Kona Electric has been omitted here. At its most resistant, the manner in which the motor immediately saps pace from the car can take some getting used to, but learning to balance your inputs to maximise efficiency does come with a sense of satisfaction.