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Honda's new hydrogen fuel-cell car looks like it belongs in a movie

Honda's new hydrogen fuel-cell car looks like it belongs in a movie

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Hydrogen-powered cars seem like the dream, if we can figure out how to reliably make them; the only emission is water, and unlike a battery-powered car, you don't need to wait for a recharge. Toyota has spent much of 2014 doubling down on hydrogen, announcing that it would sell a fuel-cell car globally in 2015 (now called the Mirai) — now, Honda has announced a new hydrogen model in Japan.

Can hydrogen infrastructure scale up?

Even though it looks kind of crazy, don't pay much mind to the "concept" label — like the Mirai's evolution, the FCV Concept previews what the production car will look like when it launches in Japan in March of 2016, followed by the US and Europe. It bears some resemblance to the FCX Clarity, Honda's last production fuel-cell car, which has seen limited availability in California. The FCV Concept and Toyota's Mirai will both again use California as a focal point — the state has long been a boon for efficient vehicles, thanks to strict emissions standards that have helped take a bite out of LA's infamous smog.

Therein lies the problem for hydrogen adoption: EVs like the Tesla Model S can plug in anywhere, but fuel cells require an entirely new infrastructure to support them. Toyota had previously committed to help building that out in California, and Honda says it'll be doing the same at this week's LA Auto Show. (Toyota now says it'll be also launching the Mirai in the US Northeast with a network of 12 refueling stations there.) But absent a nationwide hydrogen plan, these cars are just limited-use commuting tools. The FCV Concept is also a generator: Jalopnik reports that Honda's Japanese announcement includes mention of a device that allows it to feed power into your house, which is handy in an emergency. (Japan and California, two of the car's target markets, are both earthquake-prone.)