Forget the Tesla Model S. Another car of the future is finally hitting the highway.
After decades of development—and no small amount of skepticism—major automakers are set to start selling hydrogen fuel-cell cars in small numbers in the US. In the coming months, a hydrogen-powered version of Hyundai’s Tucson sport utility vehicle will appear in southern California showrooms. And Honda and Toyota next year will offer Californians futuristic sedans that can travel 300 miles (480 km) or more on a tank of hydrogen gas while emitting nothing more toxic than water vapor.
The state of California, meanwhile, is putting up $20 million a year to finance the construction of 100 fueling stations, at last building former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s much hyped but vaporous “hydrogen highway.” It’s been 15 years since the California Fuel Cell Partnership, a coalition of automakers, technology companies and government policymakers, was founded, but now, says Catherine Dunwoody, its director, “We’re definitely at that tipping point where we’re confident that we can launch the market for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.”