Hyundai continues its efforts to keep hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the broader discussion of zero-emission vehicle technologies of the future. For its latest feat, it used a Nexo SUV to break the world record for longest distance traveled in a hydrogen-powered vehicle on a single tank, logging some 484 miles across France and shattering the vehicle’s own projected range.
Hyundai tapped Bertrand Piccard, a Swiss-born aeronaut, balloonist and environmentalist best known as the founder of Solar Impulse, the first round-the-world solar-powered flight, to helm the Nexo. He set out from a hydrogen fueling station in Sarreguemines, France on Nov. 25 and arrived the next day at the Musee de l’Air et de l’space in Le Bourget with a little more than 30 miles of range remaining.
Joining Piccard, who also notched the first nonstop balloon circumnavigation of the globe without fuel in 1999 aboard the carbon-composite Breitling Orbiter 3, were a number of local and federal elected officials and royalty, including the Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg and H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco. The point of the whole thing was to promote hydrogen as a viable clean-energy solution for the future.
“With this adventure, we have proven that with clean technologies, we no longer need revolutionary experimental prototypes to break records,” Piccard said. “Everyone can now do it with standard zero-emission vehicles. A new era in performance is beginning, for the benefit of environmental protection.”
The feat follows Hyundai’s nomination of the Nexo to undergo full crash testing earlier this year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It became the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle evaluated by IIHS, and it aced the crash testing, earning a Top Safety Pick+ award in the process.
Using its advanced air purification system that filters out very fine dust, Hyundai said the Nexo purified the same volume of air breathed by 23 adults each day during the trip. Doing the same trip in a combustion vehicle would have emitted around 245 pounds of CO2, the automaker said.
Hyundai says it wants to avoid taking “any dogmatic position on alternative energies” but sees hydrogen as one solution for sustainable mobility. Back in 2012, Hyundai claimed the mantle of first production hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle to be made available via lease with the ix35 Fuel Cell crossover. It recently revealed its retro-inspired HDC-6 Neptune, a fuel cell-powered semi-truck concept, in a hint of its plans for commercial fuel-cell fleets.
Built on its own dedicated platform, the Nexo went on sale as a 2019 model and replacement for the Tucson Fuel Cell. Like other fuel-cell vehicles, it’s offered only in Southern California and the Bay Area, due largely to limited fueling infrastructure in other states. The Nexo has previously touted an estimated range of 380 miles in the Blue model trim, with 161 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque. Check out our First Drive review of the Nexo here.