As far as "firsts" go, the 2019 Hyundai Nexo just grabbed a few of them.
Last week, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the fuel-cell crossover a Top Safety Pick + award winner after it aced its crash tests, avoided forward collisions at 12 and 25 mph, and earned top scores for its headlights.
The 2019 Hyundai Nexo is the first fuel-cell vehicle tested by the agency, the first to be named a Top Safety Pick+, and a first look at how hydrogen fuel cells can react in a crash.
The IIHS didn't specify any impact to the three hydrogen tanks that Hyundai places in the rear of the Nexo, although the agency doesn't usually offer much data beyond recorded impact to the dummies in the car. The Nexo stores 41.4 gallons of compressed hydrogen in three tanks, which weigh about 245 pounds combined.
In crash-test scores, the Nexo notched top "Good" scores in every test including the passenger- and driver-side small-overlap crash test that simulates an impact with a small stationary object, such as a tree or light pole. The Nexo also earned a top "Superior" score for its standard automatic emergency braking system that avoided forward crashes at 12 and 25 mph.
The small caveat in the Nexo's award is that it applies to models built after June 2019. Hyundai Nexo crossovers built before June were fitted with headlights that only rate "Acceptable" by the IIHS; crossovers built after rate "Good."
The IIHS hadn't yet tested any fuel-cell vehicle, and none of its tests have been performed on cars with limited availability like the Nexo. Hyundai nominated the Nexo for the IIHS test, which means that the agency acquired its own vehicles for testing independently, and Hyundai reimbursed the IIHS for the costs to crash those cars.
The Nexo is only available in small numbers in Southern California to those near hydrogen fueling stations.