• Toyota fuel-cell vehicle may arrive by the end of 2014
  • Vehicle is powered by hydrogen and produces no emissions
  • Rivals will include the Honda FCX Clarity and Hyundai Tucson fuel-cell vehicles

Toyota may roll out its environmentally friendly fuel-cell vehicle by the end of this year. While the automaker has not yet confirmed a launch date for its upcoming hydrogen-powered car, the sedan is reportedly progressing ahead of schedule -- and that means it may reach dealers sooner rather than later.

First rolled out in concept form at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, the fuel-cell Toyota would be the automaker's first production-ready vehicle to be powered by hydrogen. While Toyota initially said it wouldn't be ready to launch the fuel-cell vehicle until 2015, new reports suggest the automaker might have the car ready sooner than first thought.

That's good news for shoppers interested in experimenting with the developing hydrogen technology, as the yet-unnamed Toyota fuel-cell vehicle seems like an excellent choice. Capable of traveling around 300 miles between fill-ups, Toyota's fuel-cell car can be replenished with hydrogen in an impressive three minutes, assuming you have access to a hydrogen refilling station. Unfortunately, other details about Toyota's fuel-cell vehicle are scarce, aside from its futuristic styling and attractive blue paint job.

If Toyota does roll out its fuel-cell car this year, it'll face limited appeal, but stiff competition. There are only a handful of hydrogen refueling stations in the entire country, many of which are confined to Southern California, and that means the car won't find many potential buyers. Another limiting factor will be its cost, which is rumored to be equivalent to a luxury sedan's -- a potential deterrent for shoppers interested in the financial benefits of a car that isn't powered by gasoline.

Another drawback: For shoppers interested in hydrogen-powered cars, several rivals have already beaten Toyota to the punch. Hyundai recently launched a fuel-cell version of its Tucson crossover in California, available to lease for $499 per month with $2,999 down. And Honda has offered its limited-production FCX Clarity hatchback in the U.S. for several years, also in lease-only form.

Still, the impending arrival of Toyota's fuel-cell vehicle is good news for drivers interested in helping the environment, especially since the automaker says prices will drop in the coming years as the technology becomes less expensive to make.

What it means to you: The Toyota fuel-cell vehicle will likely give Southern California shoppers a chance to cruise around with zero emissions -- and it might be here sooner than expected.

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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