The big surprise for the study authors, says Crane, was how much technological progress has occurred since 2002 in making fuel cells more efficient, longer-lived and more durable. The last technological hurdle is storing hydrogen in a car, he says, where current technologies pressurize the gas up to 10,000 pound-per-square-inch, something that takes a lot of energy. Remember the Hindenburg? Crane says past studies have found that safety isn't a big concern with hydrogen as a fuel, despite its fearsome reputation. "Gasoline has a lot of problems too," he says. "Hydrogen dissipates, it doesn't pool under your car and combust."
The report concludes by calling for government research into all sorts of alternative-fuel technologies to cover its bets. A mixture of energy efficiency, biofuels and eventually, hydrogen, could lead to fuel cell cars going from $100,000 vehicles today to the affordable ride of tomorrow.