Raymond Lim, a psychology and statistics instructor, describes himself as an “automobile enthusiast who likes to try out new technology.” Celso Pierre also has a thing for cool gadgets. He’s a mechanical engineer who loves hiking and the great outdoors. Anytime Pierre hears about new technology, he rushes to learn about it. For both men, that excitement has long included electric vehicles and fuel-efficient cars. So Lim and Pierre jumped at the opportunity to join the small but growing number of motorists who zip around California’s roadways in their own fuel-cell vehicles. Lim drives a Toyota Mirai and Pierre motors around in a Hyundai Tucson.
These hydrogen-powered, all-electric cars have been in development for decades as alternatives to conventional cars; they do not depend on fossil fuels and do not pollute—they emit just water vapor. During that time of development, numerous prototypes and fleets of fuel-cell demonstration vehicles logged millions of miles, advancing the transportation technology far beyond the laboratory test stage. Yet industry watchers grew disheartened at the seemingly endless delays that kept fuel-cell vehicles from auto dealers’ showrooms. And upon hearing projections year after year that these cars would hit the market “five years down the road,” technology enthusiasts figured the automobile industry had largely given up on mass-producing fuel-cell cars.