Gasless Future is (Almost) Here: Why Your Next Car Will Use Electricity or (Gasp) Water

As of 2011, there were an estimated 13 million alternative fuel cars, including hybrid cars, in the U.S., according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. While this represents a fraction of the total cars in the U.S., the alternative fuel car market is growing. Next time you need to purchase a car, you may be looking at one that uses water or electricity to derive power, instead of gasoline. Learn more about the electric car and the hydrogen car now to stay ahead of the curve.

The Electric Car Gains More Followers

Electric cars draw on electricity from the power grid to create power at the wheels, operating the vehicle as a result. The electric vehicles themselves have no emissions, although the power plant that produces the electricity that charges the car may have emissions. Electric cars that are charged using power from clean plants (plants that use solar power or wind power) have nearly no emissions at all.

As gas prices remain high and electric vehicle prices come down, more consumers may see the electric vehicle as a viable option. At present, most electric cars deliver 100 to 200 miles before they need a recharge, compared with 300 miles for the average gasoline-powered vehicle, according to FuelEconomy.gov. While there are more public charging stations, it can take over half an hour just to give the battery a quick refresh and four to eight hours to fully charge the battery. Additionally, the batteries are quite expensive and heavy, taking up lots of space within the vehicle.

How Tomorrow's Hydrogen Car Will Work

Toyota, Hyundai and Honda all announced plans to develop a hydrogen car by 2015, putting their confidence in the hydrogen fuel cell as their alternative energy of choice. Fuel cells handle similar to electric cars: They operate quietly, and they deliver lots of off-line power. However, they can also be refueled just like gas cars, which makes them more viable for long drives and lengthy commutes.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars use a stack of cells that mix oxygen naturally found in the air with hydrogen to generate the electricity that powers the motor and physically makes the car operate. The only emission byproduct of the hydrogen fuel cell car is water vapor. The estimates for hydrogen fuel cells give a 300-mile range, which means that they can run 3 or 4 times longer than the most viable electric cars, except for Tesla’s Model S, which has a range of 265 miles, as The Chicago Tribune explains.

"Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are just one option, though their current cost and limited availability don't make them a viable option for most car shoppers. However, Hyundai is moving closer to developing a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle for under $50,000," as Scottsdale AZ Hyundai explains. The cost to manufacture the hydrogen fuel cells themselves are a large component of the high price tag. To lower costs, manufacturers must find other areas to save, as Hyundai is doing. This drop in price would make the car a more attractive option for the average consumer. A higher starting price point would be offset by the significantly lower operating cost for the vehicle, since you won't need to buy gas.