What It's Like to Own a Hydrogen Vehicle
You’ve decided to make the bold leap into driving a hydrogen car. You likely live in California and therefore have regular access to hydrogen filling stations. Your driving habits require fast refueling and you’ve looked at the options available on the market – currently, the Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo.
Now, you’re wondering what maintaining your new hydrogen car is going to be like. Good news, hydrogen cars – at least, the hydrogen fuel-cell cars currently available on the market – should be very easy to own and care for.
Fuel Cells Behave Like Electric Cars
Because hydrogen fuel cell cars are essentially electric cars with an on-board power generating device (the fuel cell), they are conceptually and mechanically similar to electric cars. Which means that they are remarkably simple compared to gasoline vehicles.
That means there are no oil changes, no spark plugs, no transmission rebuilds, not much of anything other than regular inspections. Fuel cell cars, like electric cars, use regenerative braking to help charge the on-board battery, so wear on the braking components will be less than on a gasoline car. Suspension components carry more weight than gasoline cars, though less than electric cars, and will eventually need attention – but no more so than any other vehicle you’ve owned.
You’ll also love the driving experience of a hydrogen fuel cell car. With electric motors driving the wheels, you’ll enjoy instantaneous acceleration and incredible smoothness. Because an electric motor has just one moving part, there are no pistons, valves, and shafts to cause vibrations. There are no jerky gearshifts to interrupt the smooth flow of power.
You get that performance without any noise, too. Electrically-driven cars create less noise pollution than gas vehicles – so much so that in September 2020, U.S. regulators required electric cars to produce a sound at low speeds to help pedestrians who might be blind, partially sighted, or otherwise distracted, to hear them as they approach.
Complimentary Scheduled Maintenance
Both the Hyundai Nexo and Toyota Mirai, the two hydrogen fuel cell vehicles currently on sale in the U.S., come with free scheduled maintenance if you purchase them new (they’re so new that none are yet available used).
Like every 2022 Hyundai model, the Nexo gets three years, or 36,000 miles of factory scheduled maintenance for free, which makes caring for it very simple indeed. For this fuel cell car, that means tire rotations, multi-point inspections, and more will not cost you anything.
The Mirai comes with three years or 35,000 miles of complimentary Extended ToyotaCare coverage. This includes regular multi-point inspections, adjustment of fluid levels, cabin filter changes, tire rotations, and more. Roadside assistance also comes standard for the same period.
What Will You Need for Maintenance?
Regular check-ups at the dealer will keep your hydrogen fuel cell car running well and covered under warranty. But there are still some tips to keeping your hydrogen car running in peak condition.
As with any vehicle, you’ll need to check your tire pressures. Properly inflated tires give you better mileage. Rotate the tires and inspect them for wear. Depending on how the tire tread is wearing, you might eventually need a wheel alignment if the car pulls to one side or the other.
After the complimentary maintenance period has ended, have the dealer check the cooling systems, cabin heater, power electronics, and fuel cell modules. At the same time, they can also inspect the brakes, steering, suspension, and chassis components for wear or damage.
Other Great Benefits
For additional peace of mind, both Toyota and Hyundai offer long battery warranties so that you can drive your fuel cell car worry-free. Hyundai’s warranty on electric components stretches to 10 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. The Mirai comes with an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty on fuel cell and electric components.
If you live in California – and you likely do if you’re buying a fuel cell car – you will also enjoy access to HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes typically available only for carpools. Even if you are driving by yourself. Given the traffic congestion in large California cities, driving a fuel cell car could significantly reduce your commuting time as well as your carbon footprint!