• Toyota, Hyundai developing hydrogen cars
  • Hydrogen Toyota due out next year with 300-mile range
  • Hyundai developing low-volume hydrogen version of Tucson 

Fuel-efficient may take on a whole new meaning if Toyota and Hyundai have their way. Both automakers are working on hydrogen-powered cars that could debut within the next year or two.

Toyota's hydrogen car is expected to come out next year. Likely a sedan with a highly aerodynamic shape, the hydrogen Toyota is expected to return a 300-mile range while consuming around 11 pounds of hydrogen. Other details are unknown, but we expect the sedan will be sized like a Corolla or possibly the recently canceled Lexus HS 250h hybrid

As for Hyundai, the brand recently confirmed it's working on a hydrogen-powered version of its compact Tucson crossover. Expected to launch next year, the hydrogen Tucson will initially be sold in small numbers -- around 1,000 per year. But the brand says those figures could increase to 10,000 units per year "provided the market and infrastructure are up to it." 

So how does a hydrogen-powered car work? It's not simple, but it's certainly efficient. To start, hydrogen -- the earth's most abundant element -- is "pumped" into a car at a hydrogen fueling station. Once in the car, hydrogen is mixed with oxygen in a fuel cell. The reaction of the two elements is converted into mechanical energy, which powers the car. 

It sounds like a good idea, since you never have to use gasoline. But don't plan on buying a hydrogen car just yet. Currently, there are just 10 hydrogen fueling stations in the U.S. Of those, nearly all are in Southern California -- meaning hydrogen cars aren't a viable option for drivers in most places. 

But hydrogen cars have already found favor with a few Southern California shoppers. Honda has offered a hydrogen-powered model, now dubbed the FCX Clarity, in Southern California for nearly a decade. Currently, the FCX Clarity is only available for lease. 

We'll have more information on the upcoming hydrogen cars from Toyota and Hyundai as the automakers announce it. 

What it means to you: If you're looking for the ultimate in fuel efficiency, you may want to forget about going electric and think about choosing hydrogen.

author photo

Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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