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Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Cars: $50 For 300 Miles--Or Free To Fill Up?

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2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell at hydrogen fueling station, Fountain Valley, CA

2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell at hydrogen fueling station, Fountain Valley, CA

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Electric cars are far cheaper to run than gasoline cars on a per-mile basis--and depending on the assumptions, they can be cheaper over their entire life too.

And gasoline and diesel vehicles will get steadily more fuel-efficient through 2025 under a variety of global regulations.

But what about hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, which Toyota and Honda strongly feel are a better zero-emission alternative than battery-electric cars?

DON'T MISS: Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Cars To Come From Toyota, Hyundai, Honda

Yesterday, a Toyota executive suggested that a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle with 300 miles of range could cost $50 for a fill-up, as reported by Ecomento.

Honda hydrogen fueling station in Torrance, California.

Honda hydrogen fueling station in Torrance, California.

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Bob Carter, a senior vice president at Toyota's North American unit, spoke at yesterday's J.P. Morgan Auto Conference in New York City for investors and industry analysts.

He based his estimate on U.S. Department of Energy figures--though the same estimates suggested that the cost would later fall to $30.

As Transport Evolved pointed out, $50 is more than twice what you'd pay in the company's own Toyota Prius--rated at 50 mpg combined--to cover the same 300 miles (assuming gasoline at $4 a gallon).

2016 Toyota Fuel Cell Sedan

2016 Toyota Fuel Cell Sedan

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It remains unclear what private or public entities will fund the construction of a widespread hydrogen fueling infrastructure beyond initial stations in limited areas.

In Southern California, where the Asian makers will launch their first hydrogen vehicles, the state last fall committed $20 million a year for 10 years to fund the installation of up to 100 hydrogen stations.

ALSO SEE: First Element Expects To Make Money Selling Hydrogen Fuel In 5 Years

First Element, a private company, plans to install hydrogen pumps at gasoline stations, and believes it can be profitable doing so within five years.

First 2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell delivered to lessee at Tustin Hyundai, June 2014

First 2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell delivered to lessee at Tustin Hyundai, June 2014

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It received a grant from California to set up its first 19 stations, and aims to install another 21 over the next five years. Toyota has also contributed funding to the company.

Another maker, Hyundai, has dispensed with the cost of hydrogen fuel altogether--at least for the moment--for drivers of its 2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle.

Everyone who leases one of the vehicles, at $499 a month for three years, receives a fuel card that provides free refueling for the three-year lease term--though the lease is based on a maximum of 12,000 miles per year.

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