A Hydrogen-Powered Car Hits the Market (in California)

Hyundai is the first on the market, with Toyota and Honda expected to follow suit shortly

Hydrogen fuel-cell technology to power automobiles is finally ready for prime time. Similar to batteries, fuel cells create electricity through an electrochemical reaction. There is no combustion, and the only byproduct is water.

Hyundai is the first company to produce a fuel-cell vehicle for the mass market. It’s available for lease in southern California, for $499 a month for three years after a $2,999 down payment. The lease includes free maintenance and unlimited free fill-ups, which take about five minutes at a gas station equipped with a hydrogen refueling station.

Honda and Toyota are planning to introduce mass-market fuel-cell vehicles in the U.S. next year. You can drive about 300 miles per fill-up in a hydrogen-powered car—triple the range of an electric vehicle (the only other zero-emissions car available). And with a fuel-cell system, you won’t have to sacrifice interior room.

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California will be the first market for the cars. The state’s energy commission has allocated $200 million for infrastructure spending; the goal is 100 fueling stations by 2024. Nine stations are open now, with another 48 scheduled to open by the end of next year. Prices for hydrogen haven’t been set yet, but the cost of filling up will likely be comparable to gasoline.

Jessica L. Anderson
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Anderson has been with Kiplinger since January 2004, when she joined the staff as a reporter. Since then, she's covered the gamut of personal finance issues—from mortgages and credit to spending wisely—and she heads up Kiplinger's annual automotive rankings. She holds a BA in journalism and mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was the 2012 president of the Washington Automotive Press Association and serves on its board of directors. In 2014, she was selected for the North American Car and Truck Of the Year jury. The awards, presented at the Detroit Auto Show, have come to be regarded as the most prestigious of their kind in the U.S. because they involve no commercial tie-ins. The jury is composed of nationally recognized journalists from across the U.S. and Canada, who are selected on the basis of audience reach, experience, expertise, product knowledge, and reputation in the automotive community.