Hydrogen-powered cars combine the best of both worlds: zero-emissions driving and reduced environmental footprint of electric cars, with the convenience of fast refueling of gasoline vehicles. Provided that you have access to hydrogen refueling stations – most are concentrated in California – a hydrogen car can be a convenient choice.
At the moment, only two hydrogen-powered cars are available to the general public in the U.S. – the Hyundai Nexo and the Toyota Mirai. Both are based on hydrogen fuel-cell technology, which uses a fuel-cell stack to transform compressed hydrogen gas into electricity. Powered by electric motors, they share the instant torque, smoothness, and silent running of the best electric cars, and can be refilled in just a few minutes.
Let’s have a closer look at these two vehicles.
Hyundai calls the Nexo the world’s first hydrogen-powered SUV, as well as the company’s technology flagship. With a practical five-door body, it has enough space for you, your family, and a lot of gear, and comes with a whole range of standard technology features.
The EPA estimates the Nexo’s driving range at 380 miles – enough to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco nonstop, and better than most electric vehicles on the market. Hyundai claims it can be filled with hydrogen in just five minutes. Its range and performance are both aided by sophisticated aerodynamics. Its interior is equally slick, and constructed of high-quality, luxurious materials.
Innovative features of the Nexo include a full suite of advanced driver assists, including lane following assist, forward collision assist, driver attention warning, blind spot collision avoidance assist, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, and more. The Nexo’s most interesting feature is an automated parking function that lets the car reverse- or parallel-park itself. You don’t even need to be behind the wheel!
For early adopters of hydrogen, Nexo comes with $15,000 of fuel cards that can be redeemed at hydrogen stations for up to six years (or three years for leases). It is also eligible for the $4,500 California Clean Vehicle Rebate. For long trips that take you away from hydrogen filling stations, seven days of complimentary rental car usage are available for the first three years of ownership.
Starting price for the Nexo is $60,135, for the long-range blue trim. The more-luxurious Limited trim adds more high-end features including 19-inch wheels and a panoramic sunroof, for a slight range penalty – 354 miles, according to the EPA’s estimates.
The Toyota Mirai – Japanese for “future” – will be arriving in owners’ hands in late 2022. It is built on the company’s high-strength GA-L platform, with sophisticated multilink suspension, superb handling agility and an exceptionally smooth, quiet ride.
The Mirai uses solid-polymer electrolyte fuel cells, along with three compressed hydrogen tanks. It also has an electric “supercharger” – an electric air compressor pressurizes the intake air, and a water-cooled intercooler reduces the temperature of the compressed air before it enters the fuel cell stack. This helps maximize efficiency.
Mirai’s fuel cell powers a rear-mounted electric motor, which gives it a high-end, luxury-car feel. Three drive modes – normal, eco, and sport – let you alter its driving behavior. The result is an EPA estimated range of 402 miles for the $49,500 XLE trim. There is also a more luxurious Limited trim, at $66,000 with larger wheels and a sustainable leather-like interior.
Unlike the Nexo, which is a tall SUV-like hatchback, Mirai is a sleek sedan, which helps its aerodynamics and its range. Inside, it is luxuriously equipped, with a digital instrument cluster, 12.3-inch infotainment touch screen, and top-quality materials. The Limited model includes heated and ventilated seats, three-zone automatic climate control, multi-color ambient lighting, and more.
Mirai also includes Toyota’s new Teammate suite of driver-assistance technologies. New semi-autonomous features such as advanced drive and advanced park let the car execute basic maneuvers itself under the right conditions. Radar-operated cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, and pre-collision system with pedestrian detection keep you safe.
Like the Nexo, Mirai includes $15,000 worth of complimentary hydrogen fuel for purchasers over six years, or three years for leases. It is also eligible for the $4,500 California Clean Vehicle Rebate, in addition to local incentives.