We don't always, probably never, see these two brands thrown into the same sentence but the Nexo presents that opportunity.
Personally, I wouldn't step foot in a JLR dealer but this comparison might interest some of you, maybe some that are finding reasons to avoid the I-Pace.
Welcome to the main event of the evening. Introducing first, in the BEV corner, weighing in at 2,170 kilograms, it hails from Graz, Austria and is the current reigning AJAC Vehicle of the Year — the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace. In the fuel-cell corner, weighing in at 1,873 kilograms, all the way from South Korea and incorporating a distinctively unorthodox means of propulsion — the 2019 Hyundai Nexo. Vehicles, let’s get ready to charge!
Thanks to a steady stream of all-new electrified vehicles coming to Canada, we’re beginning to be able to put together comparisons like this. Previously, any new EV contender was put in the ring with a vehicle from the Tesla gym, an unfair fight from the opening bell, in most cases due to that company’s near decade-long track record, its cutting-edge battery technology, and in founder Elon Musk, the ultimate promoter (with apologies to Don King).
But now, legitimate prospective ‘Tesla-killers’ are climbing into the ring with regularity and in a number of key segments, most notably utility vehicles. Which brings us to this electrifying matchup, pitting one of the best battery-electric vehicles against one of the most intriguing hydrogen fuel-cells to ever to come to the Canadian market.
Noting the obvious, this comparison is both apples-to-apples and apples-to-oranges. Both the $89,800 Jaguar I-Pace and $73,000 Hyundai Nexo are zero-emission SUVs that derive all their power from onboard electricity. However, the former’s battery pack stores electricity derived from plugging in to an external power source, while the latter mixes hydrogen gas from its storage tank with oxygen from the atmosphere to produce an electric current, resulting in an electricity-on-demand system.
That said, this head-to-head match-up makes for an intriguing battle in the bigger war of which zero-emission tech will ultimately wear the carbon-reducing championship belt. For the moment, though, we’ll put aside that big apples-to-oranges question and focus on just the apples.
We’ll start with looks. Each vehicle’s exterior has a number of ‘forward-thinking’ design features one has come to expect in EVs, including flush door handles (hat tip to Tesla), state-of-the-art headlights and taillights, funky aerodynamic wheels and slippery surfaces. The Nexo has a unique, jewel-like bar running along the top of its grille, while the I-Pace features a front air dam that pushes oncoming air under the front of the hood then out through a large gap to run over the windshield. The Nexo has a far more traditional SUV look; the I-Pace captures more of the futuristic ‘performance pod’ aesthetic we’re seeing more and more of in the luxury space. Judge’s scorecard on exterior: I-Pace.
Those differing exterior designs translate into much different interiors, without even taking into consideration dashboard and control designs. The I-Pace’s cabin feels not unlike a sports coupe, with a distinctive driver-centric cockpit, while the Nexo’s is airy and full of light and space. The Jag’s controls and gauges don’t veer far from it’s gas-powered stablemates in terms of standing out, which isn’t a bad thing as the current generation of Jaguar interiors is top-notch (of course, even in its darkest days, Jag always had stellar cabins in terms of style and luxury). The Nexo’s dashboard and centre console, on the other hand, resemble nothing in the current Hyundai lineup. That’s also not a bad thing, as the design is fantastic and reflects the Nexo’s futuristic ethos — super clean and super intuitive. Both vehicles have large and easy-to-read horizontal display screens that can be formatted to display more than just one feature (i.e., a map, along with radio options). The Nexo’s traditional SUV look pays dividends in rear seat space and in rear cargo capacity, though. Judge’s scorecard on interior: Nexo.
A hallmark of new EVs is at least one cool techy feature, and these two are no exception to that unwritten rule. In the case of the Nexo, it’s an industry first blind-spot monitor that uses the wide-angle surround-view cameras to show the blind spot in the instrument cluster screen while changing lanes in either direction. Expect to see that in many vehicles in the coming years — for instance, it’s already in the Kia Telluride. The I-Pace’s neat tech is a Range Impact screen that shows in real time the impact using things like the heated seats, headlights and A/C has on the current vehicle range. Judge’s cool tech decision: Nexo.
But enough of this static stuff; let’s put these babies in motion. The funny thing about comparing EV performance and handling is that, unlike gas-powered vehicles with their differing exhaust notes, brand-specific shift patterns and unique acceleration characteristics, EVs sort of feel the same. They’re quick off the line, have seamless acceleration and are relatively silent at highway speeds. In testing these two, however, that first point — quick off the line — isn’t true. While the all-wheel-drive Jag has an EV-like zero-to-96 km/h time of 4.5 seconds, the front-wheel-drive Nexo has difficulty breaking the 10-second mark. Then there’s steering. The Jag’s is firm and somewhat heavy, though lightens up a little at speed, but still conveys a direct connection to the pavement in keeping with its sport performance lineage. The Nexo’s is middle-of-the-road light, but not washy. What I did like about the Nexo over the Jag was the ability to control the regen braking levels with the steering wheel-mounted paddles shifters. On the I-Pace there is no ‘on-the-fly’ option, as you must choose between high or low in the settings menu. Judge’s drivability decision: I-Pace.
Which brings us to the apples-to-oranges question. The full-tank range of the Nexo is a very impressive 595 kilometres when compared to the I-Pace’s full-charge range of 377 kilometres. Likewise, the Nexo’s fuel cell technology is much more comfortable in cold and hot climates than the I-Pace’s lithium-ion batteries, and features a cold-start capability within 30 seconds. Then there’s refueling/recharging: I put just under half a tank of hydrogen gas in the Nexo and it took about three minutes (1.6 kilograms for $21.20, at $12.75/kilo). The I-Pace charge times range from a minimum of 40 minutes (DC charge, zero-to-80 per cent) to 12.9 hours (AC charge, zero-to-100 per cent). Clearly the Nexo outperforms the I-Pace in terms of delivering more zero-emission range, a much, much quicker fueling/recharging time and a better powertrain platform for Canada’s wide range of temperatures. All of which would seem to give the Nexo the final decision over the I-Pace. Until you consider fueling infrastructure.
Long what has been said to be holding back the electric vehicle movement, infrastructure for hydrogen vehicles is all but non-existent in Canada. Vancouver has just one public hydrogen fueling station, located near the airport at a Shell station. A handful of others are said to be opening soon (including one in my hometown of North Vancouver), but these can’t make up for the fact that public charging stations are abundant across the city and the province. And of course, you can charge overnight at your home.
Judge’s final decision: By way of technical knockout, the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace defeats the 2019 Hyundai Nexo.