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Hydrogen Cars Heat Up

Friday, 11 May 2007 | 10:28 AM ET
2007 Honda FCX
AP
2007 Honda FCX

If you are one of those people who likes to be the "early adaptors" and drive a new model long before your neighbors, Honda's new FCX is right up your alley. Yesterday in Washington, D.C., Honda showed off its next generation FCX to journalists and lawmakers. The hydrogen-fuel cell sedan promises greater range (270 miles) and of course virtually no emissions.

Honda's pushing the next generation FCX while GM prepares a media drive with it's hydrogen car -- the Sequel -- next week in upstate New York. GM has promised we'll see the Sequel in showrooms by 2010.

Call this the summer of hydrogen hype. Automakers have been long claiming the next generation of cars that give off only water vapor are just around the corner.

Heck, BMW is testing out a fleet of its hydrogen 7 series with influence to makers here in the U.S. The automakers want us to believe the hydrogen highway is just around the next on ramp.

Here's the problem: we're still a ways from seeing the automakers harness the technology on a wide scale. The fuel cells are improving, but are nowhere close to being ready to support mass production of hydrogen vehicles.

Even more problematic, the infrastructure for refueling with hydrogen is not developed -- and unless you live in California, the odds of seeing a hydrogen filling station in the near future are very, very low.

This is not to say I'm down on the idea of hydrogen-powered cars. To the contrary, I think they are the future. But that future is a ways off,despite what you see with the promotional tours in this summer of hydrogen hype.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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