Hyundai introducing 2 new alternative-fuel SUVs

We've been promised the "car of the future" almost since cars first existed. The new Hyundai NEXO crossover SUV is about as futuristic as you can get right now. It's the latest hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, and it's going on sale by the end of the year.

"This is the longest-range zero emission vehicle available in the world; 380 miles of driving, and you can re-fill it in five minutes," said Mike O'Brien, vice president of product, corporate and digital planning at Hyundai Motor America.

A hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is actually very similar to an electric car.

"We're using hydrogen as a fuel to create electricity that runs electric motors. So in a way it's very much like a battery-electric vehicle but without the batteries," O'Brien added.

The NEXO isn't the only hydrogen fuel cell on the market, and it actually isn't Hyundai's first one. But it gets bragging rights as having the longest range on a full tank of compressed hydrogen. Of course the frequent question people have is, "Where can you fill it up?"

"Right now we have 35 operational fueling stations here in California, and there are five more that are under construction," O'Brien said.

This vehicle is a clean-sheet design. In other words, it's not based on any other current Hyundai. And even though electric-powered vehicles are inherently quiet, the NEXO is also making noise, intentionally. Digital sound emits from the front of the car to warn visually impaired pedestrians that the vehicle is moving.

Pricing hasn't yet been announced for the NEXO. Hyundai will do that closer to when it goes on sale. But the sticker price or lease rate will have to be competitive to get customers to choose it over a conventional compact SUV. As other manufacturers of fuel cell vehicles have done, Hyundai may include the cost of fuel in the monthly lease price.

What if you like the idea of an alternative fuel vehicle, but you're not ready to make the leap to a fuel cell vehicle just yet? Even though hydrogen fuel stations are more plentiful, and the range of the NEXO is comparable to that of a gasoline vehicle, some buyers may not be ready to make the leap just yet.

For them, a plug-in electric vehicle could be another good choice, and Hyundai is rolling out a new one of those, too. The 2019 Kona EV will go on sale in early 2019 and offers a really impressive range.

"This vehicle has a range estimated by the EPA of 258 miles," said O'Brien.

While there are currently two other crossover SUVs on the market with similar range - the Tesla Model X and the Jaguar I PACE - they typically cost in the $70,000-and-up range.

Pricing for the Kona EV is yet to be announced, but the regular gasoline-powered Kona starts at about $20,000. It's probably safe to say this will be the least expensive electric car with that kind of range. The Kona EV will accept quick charges from 480-volt public stations. Using one of those, Hyundai says that the battery can be charged to 80 percent capacity in under 30 minutes.
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