Ready or not, hydrogen-fueled cars are on their way to consumers.
This week's Washington Auto Show featured the first mass-produced hydrogen cars, which will be in dealerships this spring around the country, The Washington Post reported.
Hydrogen vs. electric has been the debate in the green vehicle industry for a while, hydrogen supporters touting the fuel source's better driving range compared with electric.
"It's coming, this is the next wave, and from what some of the manufacturers are saying, it's an even better bet than some of the alternatives already on the market," Kevin Reilly, owner of Alexandria Hyundai and chairman of the Washington Auto Show, told the Post. "Now all we need is the infrastructure to make it a viable option for drivers."
The emission-free vehicles are pumped with hydrogen, similar to fueling a traditional car with gas, so a network of hydrogen fueling stations needs to be in place to keep the cars running.
Hydrogen and oxygen combine in the car's fuel cell to create electricity that powers the car. The byproduct of this chemical reaction is water, which comes out of the car's tailpipe in steam.
Even though some greenhouse gases are still released during the hydrogen-making process, overall the carbon footprint left from hydrogen cell cars is lighter than the impact from electric vehicles, the Post reported.
Consumers may be concerned about their environmental impact, but they're unlikely to make a change unless it can be done in a practical, convenient fashion. The electric car market is slowly growing but has been hampered by the limited driving range of plug-ins.
"Drivers want larger cars, especially here in the United States, and they want to be able to drive further without refueling," Mike O'Brien, Hyundai's vice president of corporate and product planning, told the Post. "So while we think there will always be a place for battery-powered electrics in our fleet, they'll always be supplemental vehicles, not ones that can displace combustion engines."
Carmakers Toyota, Honda and Hyundai have placed their bets on hydrogen, earlier showcasing new hydrogen vehicles at the Los Angeles Auto Show and the Tokyo Motor Show.
Hyundai's Tucson Fuel Cell crossover-utility vehicle is scheduled to hit the market this spring through select Hyundai dealers in parts of California that already have hydrogen fueling stations.