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.