Electric cars aren’t the only zero-emissions vehicles available new in the United States. There are three hydrogen-powered models currently on sale that emit nothing but water vapor from their tailpipe. They drive just like EVs, the days of burning hydrogen in an internal-combustion engine belong to the past, but they offer a greater driving range and much quicker refueling times. The big, deal-breaking trade-off is that the refueling infrastructure is tiny, and it’s developing at a snail’s pace. Do you have any idea where the nearest hydrogen station is?
Many automakers believe the technology and the corresponding infrastructure will expand during the 2020s. Until then, here are the only hydrogen-powered vehicles you can buy new in 2020.
The Hyundai Nexo represents a small step for the South Korean automaker, and a giant leap for public acceptance of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. It’s the first fuel cell vehicle to go through the full battery of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests — and it did well. It achieved the highest-possible rating of Top Safety Pick+. The safety award could be a major boost for Hyundai and other makers of hydrogen cars.
The head-turning Nexo is also the only hydrogen-powered SUV currently available. It’s as spacious and practical as its proportions suggest, and it gives owners the ability to generate electricity by letting it idle, which can be useful in a blackout or an emergency. “Many household items found in the kitchen, the garden, and the living room can be powered by a fuel cell electric vehicle,” Hyundai noted in a statement. It likely won’t generate enough electricity to keep an entire house juiced up but it can make the difference between living in relative comfort and getting out an armada of flashlights and candles.
The 2020 Toyota Mirai won’t fly under the radar, though we’ll let you decide whether or not that’s a good thing. Its less-than-graceful sheet metal hides an advanced, 151 horsepower drivetrain made up of two storage tanks, a fuel cell, and an electric motor that spins the front wheels. Refueling the Mirai takes five minutes, according to Toyota.
Its total driving range checks in at 312 miles, and Toyota gives each buyer three years (or $15,000) of free fuel to sweeten the deal. Pricing starts at $58,550 before incentives, but note it’s only available in California and Hawaii.
If you like the idea of a hydrogen-powered Toyota but can’t stomach its looks, we suggest waiting for the next-generation model due out for the 2021 model year. It will land with a totally new design that blurs the line between family-friendly sedans and high-performance GTs.
Honda’s Clarity Fuel Cell is the only hydrogen-powered vehicle available new that isn’t built on a purpose-designed platform. It shares its body and interior with the hybrid variant of the Clarity. Digital Trends spent time commuting in one, and we were surprised to find its cabin is almost luxury car-like. Our tester came with leather and suede-like upholstery, a power-operated driver’s seat, an 8-inch touchscreen, and navigation that displays the location of charging stations. We found its seats to be comfortable, and its rear visibility to be decent.
In other words, it drives like a relatively nice car that happens to run on hydrogen instead of gasoline. It seats five, it offers 174 horsepower, and it has 360 miles of range. The catch, in Honda’s own words, is that it’s “only available in California to residents of California living or working in the proximity to a hydrogen station.”
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