[CES 2018] Hyundai unveils Nexo as new self-driving platform at CES

By Cho Chung-un

Latest FCEV to drive farthest, charge faster than other green cars

  • Published : Jan 9, 2018 - 15:58
  • Updated : Jan 9, 2018 - 17:36
LAS VEGAS -- With major carmakers facing challenges in making vehicles both environmentally friendly and autonomous, South Korean auto giant Hyundai unveiled a next-generation hydrogen-powered sport utility vehicle Monday, touting the vehicle as the most reliable self-driving platform.

Nexo is the successor of the Tucson FCEV, the carmaker’s first fuel cell SUV launched in 2013.

The latest model can drive nearly 600 kilometers per charge, a 40 percent increase from its predecessor, therefore making it the most efficient fuel cell car, according to Lee Ki-sang, senior vice president of Hyundai Motor, who leads the company’s eco-friendly vehicle programs, at the carmaker’s press conference in Las Vegas. In addition, it only takes five minutes to refuel.

The automaker has been pulling out all the stops to raise its presence in the Consumer Electronics Show held this week in Nevada City, with all its top brass including Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun dedicated to the event. One of the major events organized by Hyundai was the release of Nexo.

Hyundai Motor Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun (front right) and Aurora CEO Chris Urmson shake hands after unveiling Nexo FCEV at Consumer Electronics Show 2018. (Hyundai Motor)

The carmaker has made the new model’s components smaller and lighter, while improving the hydrogen tank’s storage density, Lee said. Nexo generates a maximum power output of 120 kilowatts, comparable to that of internal combustion engines in the same SUV category. It is designed to be able to start in cold weather -- below minus 29 degrees Celsius.

At the press conference, the carmaker also officially announced its partnership with Aurora, a US startup launched by self-driving veterans from Google, Tesla and Uber. The US company plans to test its autonomous technology on the Nexo fleet.

“We are pleased to announce yet another strategic partnership with a topmost innovator of self-driving technology, Aurora,” said Yang Woong-chul, head of Hyundai’s R&D. “We share a common understanding that both of our experiences in self-driving and vehicle development would be the perfect match in realizing autonomous vehicles for commercialization in a timely manner.”

The two plan to commercialize a level-four self-driving system by 2021. A level-four autonomous vehicle refers to a stage in which a car fully operates without a driver’s intervention

Its power efficiency, particularly as an SUV heavier than sedans or compact cars, is “advantageous” for self-driving vehicles, which requires much more electric power to run complex software and sensors.

“Driving capability for developing is probably ... I think fuel cell vehicles offer a number of advantages to experience that,” Chris Urmson, CEO of Aurora, told The Korea Herald when asked of its competence over electric vehicles that he worked on in previous years.

With Nexo, Hyundai plans to introduce a lane-following system and highway driving assistant system that uses sensors and map data.

Nexo came only seven years after Hyundai launched its first green car, the Sonata Hybrid in the US in 2011. In 2016, it debuted the Ioniq, the first family vehicles adopting all three -- hybrid, electric and plugin -- technology.

“It embodies everything, we have learned over the years of green-car development -- from the first Sonata Hybrid to the Tucson Fuel Cell to the IONIQ,” Lee said. The Nexo is also one of 38 “eco-friendly models” Hyundai will launch globally by 2025.

By Cho Chung-un Korea Herald correspondent (