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    Toyota Mirai vs Hyundai Nexo - Exclusive world-first comparison review of Australia's only hydrogen fuel cell cars


    In the last year the number of electric or electrified models on sale has increased exponentially but while the electric era has well and truly begun, many Aussies still have legitimate concerns about battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

    They’re expensive, they have limited range hardly suited to Australia’s vast terrain, and they have long charging times, compounded by limited infrastructure.

    Thankfully though, the future has more to offer than just BEVs, and two of the biggest automakers in the Australian market have invested heavily in the most promising alternative, hydrogen fuel cell.

    Toyota and Hyundai, have recently launched their latest fuel cell offerings to the local market, both claiming Australia is uniquely positioned to produce, as well as benefit from hydrogen technology.

    We’re out to see if Hydrogen technology is up to the kinds of challenges Australian travellers will throw at it. We’re out to see if Hydrogen technology is up to the kinds of challenges Australian travellers will throw at it.

    This has led us to our world-first comparison test, where we’ll stick Toyota’s second-generation Mirai and Hyundai’s successful Nexo against one another in a real-world scenario, familiar to many Australian travellers.

    Unlike our usual comparison tests, the objective is not to find a winner. Aside from sharing a power source, these are wildly different vehicles, and a winner is of no real use to consumers who can’t actually purchase one yet.

    Instead, we’re out to see if Hydrogen technology is up to the kinds of challenges Australian travellers will throw at it.

    Will our competitors succeed? Or will they fall victim to the same challenges faced by battery electric cars? We’re going to find out.

    Before we introduce the route, though, let’s explore our competitors to get you up to scratch.

    The cars

    The cars in this test are the only two of their kind currently being built in the world. The Honda Clarity, which was the only other mass production FCEV was recently discontinued, and previous experimental models by Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Nissan, and General Motors ended their runs many years ago.

    So why are these cars in Australia, and why now?

    Hyundai Nexo

    • While it wears no price tag locally, the Nexo costs around the equivalent of $A84,000 in its home market. While it wears no price tag locally, the Nexo costs around the equivalent of $A84,000 in its home market.
    • While the Nexo is new and unusual in Australia, it’s available for retail sale in its home market of Korea. While the Nexo is new and unusual in Australia, it’s available for retail sale in its home market of Korea.
    • The Nexo drives the front wheels only via a 120kW/395Nm electric motor. The Nexo drives the front wheels only via a 120kW/395Nm electric motor.

    The Hyundai Nexo is just one in a long list of cars specially imported to Australia despite limited sales potential by the brand, and while Hyundai Australia has had several on its own fleet since the mid-size SUV launched in 2018, only this year did it import more examples to trial as part of a small fleet handed over to the ACT Government.

    The trial involves 20 cars and coincides with the launch of the first semi-publicly available station in the ACT, which we’ll be using as our test start-point for reasons we’ll detail shortly.

    While the Nexo is new and unusual in Australia, it’s available for retail sale in its home market of Korea, where it has managed to move over 10,000 units since its 2018 launch.

    While it wears no price tag locally, the Nexo costs around the equivalent of $A84,000 in its home market.

    The Nexo drives the front wheels only via a 120kW/395Nm electric motor, a variation on the motor used in the Kona electric.

    If you want to read more about the Nexo specifically, make sure to check out our 2021 launch review here.

    Toyota Mirai

    • The new-generation car instead takes the visage of a large luxury sedan. The new-generation car instead takes the visage of a large luxury sedan.
    • This car is an unusual gamble for the normally conservative Toyota. This car is an unusual gamble for the normally conservative Toyota.

    This Mirai is globally new, but unlike the Nexo is actually a second-generation vehicle, replacing the first Mirai, which looked more like a Prius.

    The new-generation car instead takes the visage of a large luxury sedan (being both longer and wider than a current-generation Camry) and was made available to fleets on a trial basis in Victoria earlier this year.

    Unlike the Nexo, the Mirai’s trial program has a public price tag, costing $63,000 over the course of a three-year loan to participants.

    The Mirai’s arrival also coincided with the launch of Toyota’s refuelling station at its Altona location in Victoria, the only location where trial participants will be able to top-up their cars.

    This car is an unusual gamble for the normally conservative Toyota, but the fact it is offering a second generation at all (as Honda did with the now discontinued Clarity) shows how committed the Japanese juggernaut is to fuel cell technology.

    The Mirai is rear-wheel drive and is motivated by a 134kW/300Nm electric motor.

    If you want to get into the granular details on the Mirai, make sure to read the launch review here.

    The technology

    You might be asking what a hydrogen fuel cell is or why this particular gas has a very promising future of the transport industry.

    And you may have even seen a few comments or image macros circulating the internet on how hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are less efficient than their battery electric counterparts by the time the power actually gets to the wheels.

    Let’s answer those one at a time. A hydrogen fuel cell is a power generating system, which requires two constant inputs, compressed hydrogen, and oxygen from the outside.

    These two substances pass on either side of a membrane inside the cell, which allows ions to pass between each side and create direct current electricity in the process.

    A hydrogen fuel cell is a power generating system, which requires two constant inputs, compressed hydrogen, and oxygen from the outside. A hydrogen fuel cell is a power generating system, which requires two constant inputs, compressed hydrogen, and oxygen from the outside.

    It’s essentially how a battery works, but requires a constant feed of fuel, hence the name fuel cell. The only other by-product generated from this process is pure water, which is then ejected from the system’s tailpipe.

    The advantages of this? The exhaust is harmless, the system is much lighter and requires fewer precious metals than a battery electric system, and it’s small enough to fit in a car, but can easily scale to power a truck or a train.

    In other words, while battery electrics aim to replace petrol powered vehicles, hydrogen could be the much-needed replacement for diesel.

    It’s true what you might have seen, by the time this electricity actually drives the wheels of a car, hydrogen systems are some order of magnitude less efficient in terms of the cost of power generated than an equivalent battery electric system because to actually get hydrogen in a usable form requires filtration, compression, and refrigeration.

    However, this can actually provide an answer to some awkward realities of our current power grid.

    While battery electrics aim to replace petrol powered vehicles, hydrogen could be the much-needed replacement for diesel. While battery electrics aim to replace petrol powered vehicles, hydrogen could be the much-needed replacement for diesel.

    Regardless of whether the energy in the grid is generated by renewables or not, a huge amount of all power ever generated is wasted.

    This is because during the day when the populace is using less energy, the wind still blows, the sun still bares down, rivers still flow, and fossil fuels still must burn to keep the grid online.

    Right now, most of that power cannot be utilised, but if the grid could spend this idle energy compressing and storing hydrogen instead, it allows that energy to be moved around and used later, or in other industries like transport which require their own power source.

    So, the idea is while it ultimately may be less efficient per unit of power generated, fuel cells allow energy to be captured and used later at a lower dollar cost than it would take to do the same with a huge amount of lithium batteries.

    The route

    Our route will take us on a real-world trip familiar to many east coast Australian vacationers or work travellers.

    We’ll be travelling east from our starting point in the ACT toward the holiday town of Batemans Bay on day one, while our second day will take us up the coast to Sydney.

    This route was chosen because we could reasonably achieve it with the given range on each vehicle, but also its familiarity and varied speeds will help separate it from a stagnant slog on a flat freeway.

    Our cars will need to cover 428km from the station to our endpoint, and keep in mind there’s literally nowhere to refuel along the way. Both cars will need to make the entire journey for this test to work.

    The Canberra station is run by ActewAGL, making it an ideal starting point. The Canberra station is run by ActewAGL, making it an ideal starting point.

    Our starting location is the recently opened hydrogen pump in the ACT. This pump is a great starting point because not only does it reside between the population centres of Melbourne and Sydney, but also, it’s actually capable of filling our test cars to full (at least on paper) and is brand neutral.

    While there’s a Toyota station in Melbourne, and a Hyundai station in Sydney, the Canberra station is run by ActewAGL, making it an ideal starting point.

    As we soon found out, though, there are some teething issues for this early implementation of the tech that made our test more interesting than we expected. Read on to see what happened.

    Day 1 – ACT to Batemans Bay

    We picked both cars up from locations in Canberra and proceeded to the ActewAGL filling station which would serve as the starting point of our journey.

    The Nexo was handed to us with roughly a third of a tank of hydrogen, while the Mirai had around half a tank. We soon discovered this would be a bit of an issue.

    This is because there is only one set of hardware at this filling location, and it is designed, for now, to support just 20 cars (The ACT government’s fleet of Nexos) a week.

    This lack of redundancy means the filling hose draws from just one pressurised and refrigerated tank. Because the system is pressure-based and needs to gas the cars to an absurd 700 bar to fill them to the maximum, if too many cars fill up during the day there simply isn't enough pressure (regardless of how much actual hydrogen is in the tank) to fill another vehicle.

    Our problem, though, was twofold. We had to fill two cars a fair amount, and the station had had a power outage just before our visit. This meant we had to wait an hour for the system to be cool enough to compress the hydrogen sufficiently, and before we had a chance to fill, another Nexo beat us to it.

    This Nexo took the good stuff off the top of the tank, leaving it with insufficient pressure to fill both our vehicles to full.

    How much does all that hydrogen cost? I hear you ask. Well, in this case it’s free. How much does all that hydrogen cost? I hear you ask. Well, in this case it’s free.

    Thanks to a timely warning of this possibility from the patient station staff on the day, we tentatively filled each vehicle a decent amount each, before attempting to top them up further.

    Alarmingly, after getting the Nexo to 450km range on the first pump, the Mirai fell short of our target range at just 420km on the first fill. A clunky process of continually swiping our demo card to try and force more into the tank lead to a slow yet nail-biting process of watching as gram after gram of hydrogen trickled into each car’s tank.

    By the time the station had decided it had had enough of this, our Nexo had a dash-reported range of 480km, and the Mirai was returning a range of 470km, each filled to around two-thirds of full, well short of the 660- or 650km claimed range at full for each car, respectively.

    We decided this would have to be close enough for our 428km journey and set off. How much does all that hydrogen cost? I hear you ask. Well, in this case it’s free.

    As the station is still figuring out the kinks, the refuelling cost is covered by some combination of the ACT Government, AGL, and Hyundai.

    The station’s staff informed us that the cost for hydrogen is currently estimated at $15 a kilo, or around $80 – $90 to fill each of our cars, although this wholesale per-kilo cost is expected to be cut to single-digits by the time the technology is mainstream enough for consumers.

    As we departed, we reset the trip computer in each car. The starting leg exiting Canberra to the east was the most nerve-wracking of the entire trip.

    The exit from the city limits was fine. In fact, the Nexo I was piloting for the first leg didn’t even report a drop in range until we began to ascend the hills around the periphery of the city.

    More concerning was the rate of consumption initially reported by each vehicle. The Nexo’s dash, for a large part of the first leg, was reporting 1.2kg/100km, while the Mirai, with its smaller tank, started out reporting an alarming 1.7kg/100km. This could be a close test, indeed.

    We tentatively filled each vehicle a decent amount each, before attempting to top them up further. We tentatively filled each vehicle a decent amount each, before attempting to top them up further.

    Start day 1

      Hyundai Nexo    Toyota Mirai     
    Range remaining 480km 470km
    Dash-reported consumption    1.2kg/100km 1.7kg/100km
    Distance travelled (dash) 0km 0km

    What’s it like to drive a hydrogen fuel cell car? If you’ve driven a battery electric vehicle before, the experience will be pretty similar.

    The hydrogen cell itself isn’t really a drive component, it powers the same kind of electric motor used in each brand’s fully electrified offerings.

    In the case of the Nexo, it quite literally uses a version of the motor Hyundai employs in the Kona electric, while the Mirai has a unique unit built just for it.

    This means smooth, lag-free acceleration, and the capability for heavy but sleek regenerative braking. Just like most other electric cars, acceleration can be brisk due to healthy power figures and the lack of a transmission, and in terms of those virtues the Mirai and Nexo are quite similar.

    However, this is largely where their similarities end. The front-wheel drive Nexo feels light, soft, and breezy, and despite a local suspension tune, is definitely comfort biased. Even the steering which is light and every drive mode leans into this theme.

    Meanwhile, the Mirai feels low-set, heavy, and more substantial to steer. The steering is slower and more significant, the ride is firmer (but not harsh), and the car feels far more secure on the road and in the corners.

    The Mirai feels every bit as luxurious as its executive sedan exterior suggests, and this feeling is boosted by its superior roadholding and rear-mounted motor.

    The front-wheel drive Nexo feels light, soft, and breezy, and despite a local suspension tune, is definitely comfort biased. The front-wheel drive Nexo feels light, soft, and breezy, and despite a local suspension tune, is definitely comfort biased.

    We crested the hills outside Canberra and began our descent toward the coast. The last third of this trip is largely a steep, downhill cruise from the plateau the ACT sits on to the much lower coastal regions, which revealed some interesting things about the Nexo I was piloting.

    In an electric car, regenerative braking is key to its range potential. Because ranges are calculated with a certain percentage of around-town driving, kilometres regenerated when slowing to a halt can be factored in.

    This is also true for a hydrogen fuel cell car, as regenerated energy is stored in a hybrid-sized battery buffer. The trouble is, when you’re faced with a long downhill stretch the relatively small hybrid battery fills up quickly from such powerful regeneration.

    So, while I wasn’t needing the fuel cell to react and waste hydrogen on my downhill run, I also couldn’t store all of the energy captured by the motor in the process.

    The Nexo’s battery would fill, and the car’s computer would automatically turn off the regeneration system. Hyundai estimates only a few kilometres of range can be stored in the battery.

    If you’re following, this means regeneration is of much less significance when calculating the range on a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, a key learning from our first day on the road.

    We reached our Batemans Bay accommodation in good shape on the first night. Not only did both cars prove to be comfortable tourers, each car’s computer reported only around 100km of lost range, despite the journey thus far measuring 148km on the GPS. Check out the numbers below.

    The Mirai feels every bit as luxurious as its executive sedan exterior suggests. The Mirai feels every bit as luxurious as its executive sedan exterior suggests.

    End day 1

      Hyundai Nexo    Toyota Mirai     
    Range remaining 379km 366km
    Dash-reported consumption    0.9kg/100km 0.8kg/100km
    Distance travelled (dash) 143.3km 140.9km

    Day 2 – Batemans bay to Sydney

    We were pleasantly surprised to find the next morning that our cars decided not to revise the amount of range remaining once re-booted as some electric cars do (ahem, Jaguar I-Pace…) and set off to grab some more footage for the video component of this review, as well as take some time for a closer look at the interiors and practicality of each car.

    To keep range calculations even we were careful to ensure both cars were shut down completely while we were taking a closer look.

    The interiors of each car are as contrasted as their exteriors. The Hyundai, relative to the Mirai, is conservative from the outside, yet quite the opposite on the inside.

    It sports a futuristic cabin, including a button-smattered version of the ‘bridge console’ now popular across the rest of Hyundai’s range.

    The Nexos which arrive in Australia are fully specified with blue-tinged and synthetic-leatherbound interior trim, an impressive array of screens consisting of an 8.0-inch digital dash and a 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support.

    Under the matt silver console there’s a large cutaway with storage, which hosts a wireless charging bay and two power outlets.

    The Australian Nexos are fully specified with blue-tinged and synthetic-leatherbound interior trim, and an impressive array of screens. The Australian Nexos are fully specified with blue-tinged and synthetic-leatherbound interior trim, and an impressive array of screens.

    Hyundai claims a certain portion of the interior is constructed of recycled materials, increasing this car’s environmental cred, and it’s also full of neat detail patterns and off-silver highlights in the door cards. I’m also a fan of the two-spoke steering wheel, unique in Hyundai’s range.

    The Nexo leaves you with the impression of futurism form behind the wheel.

    The Mirai couldn’t be more different. While the car is a sight to behold from the outside, on the inside it’s surprisingly conservative, while fulfilling the executive Japanese luxury promise set by its sedan shape.

    The cabin materials feel more Lexus than Toyota, as do the layout of the dash and the plush seats. I like the Toyota’s sleek digital instrument cluster but the software and image quality on the 12-inch multimedia screen isn't quite as good as the Nexo's unit.

    Despite its huge footprint, the Mirai also feels a bit closed in, no matter which seat you pick. The roofline feels low, the beltline of the windows feels high, and the dark interior elements make it feel smaller still.

    Cabin comfort and positioning is excellent though, making the Mirai feel snug and luxurious. It’s void of some of the nicer detail elements of the Nexo, but the overall shape of the dash is interesting and, again, unique in Toyota’s range.

    While the Mirai is a sight to behold from the outside, on the inside it’s surprisingly conservative. While the Mirai is a sight to behold from the outside, on the inside it’s surprisingly conservative.

    One thing I'm not as much of a fan of in the Mirai is how impractical it is compared to the Nexo.

    While the Hyundai looks and feels like an accomplished family car, the Mirai is just missing that element.

    Front passengers are offered limited storage options and no wireless charging, while the rear seats are compromised by a huge centre cutaway tunnel which houses one of the Mirai’s fuel cell tanks.

    The boot capacity of each vehicle is also starkly different. While the Nexo offers a segment competitive boot space of 461 litres (VDA), the Mirai has a small hatchback-sized space of 272L (VDA), due to the drive components and storage tanks over the rear axle.

    Surprisingly though, the Mirai consumed a large portion of our equipment on the day, thanks to its almost perfectly rectangular usable space.

    We swapped vehicles once more and kicked off our drive program for day two. As a reminder our total distance remaining to Sydney came in at 278km, and below is what was showing on the dash of each car:

    Start day two

      Hyundai Nexo    Toyota Mirai     
    Range remaining 379km 366km
    Dash-reported consumption    0.9kg/100km 0.8kg/100km
    Distance travelled (dash) 143.3km 140.9km

    The numbers look good, but they could easily be skewed by the long downhill stretch from day one, and day two largely consists of 80km/h single-lane highway driving, and as we’ve learned from similar range tests in battery electric vehicles, routes with little to no chance for regeneration are never good for the efficiency of electric motors.

    Plus, there’s the long uphill stretch at Mount Ousley just after Wollongong, which will no doubt lower range even further.

    There’s no chance for a refill along the way, so we still may not make it depending on how efficient our fuel cells end up being, especially in the crucial first half of the day.

    We proceeded along the wooded coastal road with both cars travelling in relatively tight knit formation. As the fuel cells were asked to consistently generate power, it was a relief to get some regen travelling through the 60km/h and 50km/h zones of towns.

    As it transpired, this wasn’t as important as I thought it would be, but more on that later.

    For the most part, the first stretch of this trip was on relatively coarse tarmac, which tends to generate much more cabin noise than a smooth freeway, but not in either of these two cars.

    Would the Mirai overtake the Nexo as seemed likely? We set off to find out. Would the Mirai overtake the Nexo as seemed likely? We set off to find out.

    This is not just because they are relatively quiet in the cabin, but also because both brands had to go to special lengths to reduce road noise as there is no engine noise or vibration to mask it.

    Measures like extra insulation and acoustic glass are present in both, making for a whisper quiet journey, especially in the plush Mirai.

    Both also have plenty of power in reserve for the odd overtaking manoeuvre around slower heavy vehicles.

    Even uphill both proved smooth and alarmingly fast when pushed, the only evidence of the power generated by the cells being a sudden splash of water out the rear of each car’s tailpipe.

    Our next stopping point, for a driver swap and lunch was the town of Kiama, where we checked each car’s dash to see how we had progressed.

    Interestingly, both cars had managed to increase the delta between estimated range and the distance remaining, with the Mirai having gradually closed the gap to the Nexo over the course of the day.

    Day two check-in (Kiama)

      Hyundai Nexo    Toyota Mirai     
    Range remaining 244km 241km
    Dash-reported consumption    0.9kg/100km 0.78kg/100km
    Distance travelled (dash) 303.4km 298.3km

    With only 119km remaining and more than double that in each car’s tank, it had become apparent we were all-but-certainly going to make it.

    It was a relief that it seemed unlikely we would have to make an awkward phone call for a flatbed rescue, and that we’d be able to complete our trip with range to spare.

    Still, it would be interesting to see how badly the five-kilometre, steep uphill Mount Ousley climb would affect our vehicles in the final leg, and exactly how much range would be left in each of the tanks.

    Would the Mirai overtake the Nexo as seemed likely? We set off to find out.

    The final chapter of our trip was largely uneventful with each car continuing to increase the range delta available until we reached the uphill section.

    While the Nexo’s mid-size SUV body was largely ignored by onlookers, the Mirai consistently turned heads in traffic. While the Nexo’s mid-size SUV body was largely ignored by onlookers, the Mirai consistently turned heads in traffic.

    There, we were faced with zero opportunity for regeneration, and the likelihood that we would need to routinely overtake commercial vehicles, pushing the electric motors harder still.

    On the road both vehicles barely felt the hill at all, with the ample power from the electric motors driving them, although the estimated range remaining, as expected, took a battering.

    Both cars dramatically dropped by at least 10km in the first few moments, and then levelled out, with the consumption by the top of the hill remarkably untarnished.

    The final leg through relatively light Sydney traffic allowed for some extra regen along the way, somehow lowering the Mirai’s consumption even further.

    While the Nexo’s mid-size SUV body was largely ignored by onlookers, the Mirai consistently turned heads in traffic with its unusual swoopy sedan shape and fetching electric blue colour scheme.

    Pricing & SpecsInsurance Quote

    At our final stop we collected our last few shots for the video and took our final measurements. Here’s what appeared on the dash of each car:

    Final consumption figures:

      Hyundai Nexo    Toyota Mirai     
    Range remaining 169km 169km
    Dash-reported consumption    0.9kg/100km 0.76kg/100km
    Distance travelled (dash) 405.6km 398.9km

    Interestingly both car’s odometers fell short of the actual 428km distance we travelled measured by GPS, and the Mirai’s consumption continued to fall, even as we entered the city, surpassing the Nexo which plateaued very quickly at the end number of 0.9kg/100km. The range remaining evened out perfectly between the two cars.

    This result was the last in a bunch of surprises on this test, where we learned much about the refuelling process, drive characteristics, and consumption nature of these two hydrogen vehicles.

    We had expected the hydrogen vehicles to behave like battery electric vehicles, their electric motors and single-speed transmissions not suited to the open road, having to constantly push against the air.

    In a battery electric, reported and actual range tends to nosedive on long freeway sprints, with regeneration being the key factor for increases in range.

    The result was the last in a bunch of surprises on this test. The result was the last in a bunch of surprises on this test.

    However, our hydrogen pair's consumption dropped lower and lower over time, outperforming not just our expectations, but the range claims made by each brand.

    With an electric motor, how can this be the case? My theory is the consumption issue for battery electrics over distance is less to do with the motor and single-speed transmission, and more to do with the sheer weight of the batteries required.

    The motor has to consistently pull harder over long distances, hampering range. Instead, our lighter FCEVs were able to pull with consistently less effort, and once up to speed needed only small amounts of juice from the fuel cell to stay at pace.

    As for regeneration: It’s not as important as it is in a BEV. While both cars can draw healthy regen from their strong electric motors, the small hybrid-sized battery only helps to take the stress of the fuel cell in stop-start traffic, more like a petrol hybrid system.

    Makes sense then that each of these vehicles recently set range records with the Nexo travelling 887.5km on a single tank (against a 666km claim) and the Mirai managing 1003km on a single tank against its 650km claim.

    This lines up with our experience of the Mirai slightly outperforming the Nexo in terms of overall consumption, but overall, this was a pleasant and unexpected result that bodes very well for the concept of FCEVs replacing diesels for long-range travel.

    In fact, being able to do this trip on a single two thirds tank fill in both outperforms most petrol cars on the road today.

    Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.