Are Hydrogen Cars the Future?

For decades, hydrogen has been considered the next big fuel source for vehicles. It’s taking time to gain traction, but hydrogen might very well be the future.

(Courtesy Toyota)

For decades, hydrogen has been considered the next big fuel source for vehicles. It is, after all, the most abundant element in the universe, and when used in a combustion engine, hydrogen emits purified water, not a noxious smoggy stew. It’s taking time to gain traction, but hydrogen might very well be the future. 

Is hydrogen efficient? Extremely. The U.S. Department of Energy points out that a gas engine converts less than 20 per­cent of fuel into actual energy to power a car, whereas with hydrogen, that number is as high as 60 percent.

OK, but how expensive is it? There’s the rub. After driving a 100-mile loop in Lake Tahoe aboard Toyota’s hydrogen-powered Mirai, we spent more than $31 to replenish the tank. Comparatively, a 28 mpg Camry would have cost merely $12 to top off after motoring the same distance.

Is anyone selling hydrogen cars? You can lease a Hyundai Tucson or buy a Mirai. The latter went on sale in 2015. It’s pricey, at $58,365, for what’s osten­si­bly a slow Camry, but with tax credits and $15,000 worth of hydrogen fuel included, it becomes a more reasonable proposition.

Great, where can I get one? California. Right now, the fueling-station infrastructure for hydro­gen is mostly limited to the Golden State, where drivers can fill up their tanks using a modified gas coupling.

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