You've probably heard people express safety concerns about hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles, because of the tank of compressed flammable gas under the body. Well, after withstanding a battery of crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Hyundai Nexo fuel cell SUV has rolled away with the Institute's highest award.
The IIHS announced on Thursday that the 2019 Hyundai Nexo has picked up the IIHS' highest accolade, Top Safety Pick+. However, this only applies to models built after June 2019, when Hyundai adjusted the headlights' factory aim for better visibility in curves. Models built prior to June 2019 are only eligible for the penultimate award, Top Safety Pick.
The first thing a car needs to do to get Top Safety Pick+ is withstand a battery of crash tests. The Nexo received the highest rating of Good in every crash test, including the tricky new test, passenger-side small overlap front, which mirrors a driver-side test to ensure automakers are equally protecting both occupants. The Nexo also received a Good rating in every crash test's subcategories, save for two, where it was rated the second-best Acceptable.
These tests also include evaluations of a car's crash-avoidance systems and headlights. Since forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking are standard on the Nexo, and since the vehicle was able to avoid collisions at both 12 and 25 miles per hour, it received the highest rating, Superior. As for headlights, models built after June 2019 receive a Good rating for improved curve illumination, whereas models built before that date are only rated Acceptable. Either way, it's still good enough for an award.
What's interesting is that these crash tests weren't actually the IIHS' idea, given the car's limited sales potential as a California-only hydrogen car. Instead, Hyundai nominated it for testing. According to the IIHS, that turned out to be a great idea, as it gave the Institute an early crack at a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, a type of vehicle it had never tested before.
The 2019 Hyundai Nexo joins several other Hyundai vehicles with Top Safety Pick+ awards, including the Elantra, Sonata, Kona, Tucson, Santa Fe. Additional Hyundai models with the second-best Top Safety Pick award includes the Accent, Elantra GT, Ioniq, Veloster and Santa Fe XL.