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Hydrogen Hyundai

First car of its kind to be sold next year

A model poses next to a Hyundai Tucson facelift on display at the Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In 2014, Hyundai says it will starts selling Tucson SUV powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. It will be the first mass-market vehicle of its type to be sold or leased in the U.S. AP photo

A model poses next to a Hyundai Tucson facelift on display at the Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In 2014, Hyundai says it will starts selling Tucson SUV powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. It will be the first mass-market vehicle of its type to be sold or leased in the U.S. AP photo

DETROIT — For years, the joke in the auto industry was that a mass-produced car that runs on hydrogen was always a decade away.

That will change next year when Hyundai starts selling a Tucson SUV powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. It will be the first mass-market vehicle of its type to be sold or leased in the U.S.

“These things are now ready for prime time,” John Krafcik, Hyundai’s North American CEO, said last week. His company plans to announce details of the new Tucson on Wednesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Even as the industry focused on battery-powered and hybrid cars, automakers such as Hyundai, Honda and Toyota kept up research on fuel cells. Now they appear to have conquered obstacles such as high costs, safety concerns and a lack of filling stations. These vehicles could help the companies meet stricter future fuel-economy standards.

Hyundai is beating other auto companies to the mass market with Tucsons that have electric motors powered by a stack of hydrogen fuel cells. Hyundai plans to start selling the vehicles in Southern California and eventually spread to other areas as filling stations are built.

Hydrogen cars likely will help automakers meet new goals from eight key states to put more zero-emissions cars on the road. The states, including California and New York, pledged late last month to work together to put 3.3 million battery-powered cars, plug-in hybrids and other clean-burning vehicles on the roads in those states by 2025. That’s more than 15 times as many zero-emission vehicles projected to be in use in the entire U.S. by 2015.

The other states in the pact are Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont. The eight states together represent about 23 percent of the U.S. auto market.

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