Honda, which has leased about two-dozen fuel cell cars since 2005, took the wraps off a futuristic-looking FCEV concept vehicle in Los Angeles. It shows the style of a 300-mile range fuel cell car that will be marketed in the U.S. and Japan in 2015.
Stephen Ellis, manager of fuel cell marketing for Honda, also wouldn't say where vehicle will be marketed in the U.S. But he expects hydrogen fueling stations to be abundant first in California, and then Northeast states.
He predicts it will take five years for the stations to reach significant numbers outside California, and up to 25 years to go nationwide.
Hyundai wouldn't say how many fuel-cell Tucsons it expects to lease. The company believes that fuel cells will power the next generation of cars, appealing to affluent, environmentally conscious customers because affordable battery technology has not advanced enough.
"This is the sort of technology that makes batteries look old-fashioned," says North American CEO John Krafcik.
But skeptics say hydrogen fueling stations are more expensive than electric car charging stations, partly because electricity is almost everywhere and new and safe ways for producing, storing and transferring hydrogen will be needed.
Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of Nissan Motor Co., which has bet heavily on electric vehicles for its future, is one vocal skeptic.
"Having a prototype is easy. The challenge is mass-marketing," he told reporters. He said he did not see a mass-market fuel cell as viable before 2020.
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In predictive computer models, FCEVs (fuel cell electric vehicles) frequently achieved a higher projected market share than battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and hybrids.