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As gasoline mileage continues to improve and all-electric cars become more common on U.S. roadways, it's hard to see how fuel economy can get much better.

But Hyundai raised hopes this week, beginning U.S. imports of the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell CUV. The first load of vehicles arrived in Los Angeles and should go on sale during the summer in Southern California.

Toyota will be right behind. At this years Consumer Electronics Show, Toyota announced its first fuel cell vehicles will be sold in the U.S. in 2015.

How do they work? To simplify, the engines are powered by water, not petroleum-based fuel. Sounds like a motorist's dream, right?

In a radical departure from the internal combustion engine, fuel cell engines contain a fuel cell stack that converts hydrogen gas stored on board with oxygen from the air into electricity to drive an electric motor that propels the car.

Hyundai UK produced a video to show how the propulsion system works.

Lengthy evolution

A mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell vehicle has been a long time in the making but scientists say there is still plenty of work ahead to make these systems a full part of the U.S. energy and transportation system.

However, a new report in the ACS journal Chemistry of Materials suggests a new solid, stable material can pack in a large amount of hydrogen, making fuel cells even more efficient.

A research team led by Umit B. Demirci has experimented with the recent discovery that hydrogen can be stored in solid material. The team concludes that using solids is something of a breakthrough, which could allow the wider use of hydrogen energy.

Since the 1970s energy researchers have dreamed of powering engines from water, but hydrogen has always posed a number of technological challenges. One of the biggest is storage.

Previous research has focused on developing hydrogen-containing liquids or compressing it in gas form. Now, Demirci and his team say solid storage is showing potential for holding hydrogen in a safe, stable and efficient way.

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