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April 15, 2015

Spring is a popular time to buy a new car, and choosing between a gas-powered vehicle and an electric vehicle is a big decision in the car-buying process. But wouldn’t it be nice to have the clean, zero emissions benefits of both: an electric car that doesn’t need to be plugged in? Now that fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) have hit the streets, car buyers have that option.

FCEVs, which run on hydrogen gas rather than gasoline, have the potential to significantly reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. They also have the ability to lower harmful emissions that contribute to climate change by emitting only water from the tailpipe.

Fuel cells produce electricity and heat as long as fuel—in this case, hydrogen—is pumped into your vehicle, just like you would with gasoline. But unlike electric batteries, fuel cells don’t run down or need recharging. Despite being powered solely by the electricity produced by fuel cells, FCEVs have the driving range and ease of refueling of today’s gasoline vehicle: FCEVs can be driven more than 300 miles on one tank of hydrogen and refueling takes less than five minutes.

The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has been researching and developing the technology needed to make FCEVs a viable transportation option for the American public. FCEVs are one piece of President Obama's all-of-the-above energy portfolio and complement pure battery and other vehicle options.

Energy Department-funded research has cut the cost of automotive fuel cells in half since 2006, which has allowed car manufacturers to make these vehicles more affordable for the everyday person.

EERE funds also led to more than 500 patents, 40 commercial products, and an additional 65 patents anticipated to be commercial in the next 3 to 5 years—all as a result of early national laboratory work in the 1970s after the first oil embargo starting at Los Alamos National Lab.

Over the past few months, Hyundai and Toyota both introduced their FCEVs, right on track with the plans for having these vehicles commercially available in the 2015 timeframe. Several other companies also plan to release FCEVs including Honda, GM, Daimler, BMW and others.

Click here to watch Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz drive the Toyota Mirai on the streets of Washington, D.C. earlier this year.

Fuel cell electric vehicles—just one of EERE’s Energy Impacts.

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