The future isn't here. Not quite.
General Motors aims to sell hundreds of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles at neighborhood dealerships in 2011, according to USA Today. And it's in an all-out race with other automakers, each of whom wants to be the first to get a model for average people on the market first. To find out why, just think how "Prius" is synonymous with "hybrid" and you see the competitive advantage of having the first successful offering.
Honda plans to release limited numbers of its hydrogen fuel cell car next year, Hyundai is aiming for mass production by 2015.
Hydrogen is the holy grail of fuel technology. Unlike fossil fuels, it releases its energy without pollution -- just water vapor. (And, for those really following the climate chemistry closely, that water vapor isn't expected to have a significant effect as a greenhouse gas.)
There are several big hurdles car makers have to leap to make America's fleet run on hydrogen. For one, we have to come up with a way to make hydrogen fuel in a way that doesn't pollute, since making the fuel now requires energy generated by burning fossil fuels. Another hurdle: Building enough hydrogen fueling stations to make buying such a car feasible for average drivers.
The good news is two-fold: First, that car-makers are competing to make the best first product, and that will no doubt lead to innovations as they attempt to leap-frog each other. And second that Detroit, the old bastion of American auto making, is very much in the race.
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