Still, there’s a pioneering frisson to be had from refuelling: hydrogen pumps are sometimes set aside from the rest, as at Cobham services on the M25, or even within a gated industrial compound, as at Rainham and Heathrow. You’re unlikely to have to queue, although the possibility of the gate not opening at these unmanned sites may add to your refuelling frettings. Not that I was ever barred, and at Heathrow you won’t need to wait long before another fuel-cell vehicle appears – another Hyundai, a Toyota Mirai or a converted Ford Transit, perhaps – this being the busiest hydrogen pump in the UK.
Despite these challenges, the Nexo is undoubtedly a more convenient zero-emissions vehicle than a battery-electric car. Even with a worst-case 250-mile range, it goes further than most, and once you’re familiar, you’ll be filling in well under 15 minutes. As range anxiety fades, your attention will turn to the Nexo itself, which proves a pleasingly convenient SUV to use, and the car’s functionality is entirely uncompromised by its propulsion system. Which is quite some achievement, and one that diminishes the impact of some more ordinary disappointments. They include an over-firm ride, the rather unyielding front seat cushions and a scattergun control layout that can take your eyes off the road for too long. The Nexo’s lane-keeping assistance may well counter your resultant drift off line, though many of us will turn this intrusive system off.
None of which spoils the pleasure of driving this handsome technology-stretcher. By the end of the loan, I was beginning to think that £65,995 isn’t so unreasonable, even if it’s more than double the price of a mid-range Tucson. If you live and drive within viable distance of a couple of pumps, you’ll soon enjoy living with the Nexo as if it were any other car. But only if you live in the south-east. Once you move north of Watford, the spread of pumps is limitingly thin, and thinner than in large areas of Europe. That will slowly change but, on the basis of this experience, ought to happen a whole lot faster.
Fuel cells: the future