Hyundai keeps Nexo fuel cell crossover understated

Nexo: Design doesn’t let on that it’s hydrogen-powered.

DETROIT — On the outside, Hyundai’s upcoming Nexo fuel cell crossover couldn’t be more different from another hydrogen player in the market, the Toyota Mirai.

The Mirai has an aggressive front end and a shape that lets people know at first glance that it isn’t powered by an internal combustion engine. The Nexo, on the other hand, has a more streamlined look that belies the cutting-edge technology underneath.

These alternative takes reflect the broader differences in design philosophies of the two brands, says Minchul Koo, head of exterior design for Hyundai Motor Co.

“I’m always thinking about the balance,” Koo told Automotive News at the auto show here. Nexo “doesn’t look very technological. It doesn’t look very complicated. We feel some sensual emotion behind this Nexo. We keep the humanity and technology together.”

The Mirai, he added, “is a little bit complicated.”

Koo, whose team also penned the redesigned Veloster that debuted in Detroit, said the design philosophy behind the Nexo is rooted in a Korean design tradition that emphasizes blending in with nature. “It’s clean; it’s pure, not a lot of lines,” Koo said. “This is the difference between Toyota and Hyundai design for the future.”

Schreyer: Don’t shout “fuel cell.”

Unlike its predecessor, the Tucson Fuel Cell, the Nexo is built on a dedicated platform. Hyundai says it will spearhead its plans to “accelerate development of low emission vehicles, in line with Hyundai Motor Group’s renewed goal of introducing 18 eco-friendly models to global markets by 2025.”

Hyundai-Kia design chief Peter Schreyer says the Nexo stands out on the street, but the automaker wasn’t trying to draw attention to its fuel cell-powered underpinnings.

“It’s very sleek,” Schreyer said. “We didn’t want to make something that cries out loud and says, ‘Yeah, I’m a fuel cell car!’ We tried to make it a reasonable car.”