Hyundai will also debut a new hydrogen model in LA image

Hyundai Motor America plans to be the third automaker to unveil an ultra-clean hydrogen-powered vehicle at this week’s L.A. Auto Show.

Considered by many to be the zero-emission alternative to battery power, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have been regaining momentum in recent months as manufacturers like Hyundai look to overcome the limitations of current battery technology.

“A fuel-cell car is an electric vehicle for the impatient,” said HMA Chief Executive Officer John Krafcik, who noted the introduction of fuel-cell vehicles will mean that electric propulsion will come in two different “flavors.”

Fuel cells were the darling of alternative propulsion advocates around the time of the new Millennium before batteries landed in the spotlight. But with electric vehicle sales lagging expectations – and with both manufacturers and government officials taking a renewed look, hydrogen is showing new life.

Along with Hyundai, Toyota and Honda are also unveiling experimental fuel cell cars during the LA Show, both makers promising to deliver hydrogen vehicles for limited-volumes sales in the U.S. market by 2015.

Rapid refueling is seen as a major advantage over battery power, as is range. Toyota is promising its new fuel-cell vehicle, or FCV, will deliver up to 300 miles on a tank – in line with a conventional passenger car – compared to less than 100 miles for the majority of today’s battery-electric vehicles.