In what could be the first significant step toward mass-marketing fuel-cell vehicles, Toyota and Honda put the world’s first such cars on the road yesterday. The cars are being leased to the Japanese government and several public organizations in the U.S. — at the whopping price of between $6,500 and $9,800 per month, meaning the dream of widespread ownership of the vehicles has still got a long way to go. Environmentalists hail fuel cells as the brightest R&D possibility on the current automotive horizon, because the vehicles emit none of the pollutants that contribute to smog or global warming. But aside from the prohibitive cost of the fuel-cell vehicles, there is the problem of fueling stations; Japan estimates it would need 3,800 hydrogen stations to meet the needs of the 5 million fuel-cell vehicles it hopes to have on its roads by 2020; there are currently three such stations in the entire nation, all of them strictly experimental.
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