Only a couple of years ago a hydrogen future was all the rage with both car companies and lawmakers alike but in more recent times we’ve seen many of the same supporters back away from the clean fuel. We saw dozens of hydrogen powered fuel-cell concept cars rolled out at car shows around the world and even saw BMW produce a limited run of hydrogen powered 7-series limos, which it leased to a number of celebrities to promote the technology, but the idea of a hydrogen economy still fails to ignite significant interest.

One of the main reasons for the movement away from hydrogen is because of the tens of billions of dollars required to develop the fuel infrastructure. The other major problem is that there are so many alternatives drawing research dollars, such as methanol, all-electric power, hybrids, fuel cells, ethanol and now plug-in hybrids, that it has become extremely difficult to focus on just a single technology, reports Automotive News.

The U.S. government hasn’t completely given up on the hydrogen society. The U.S. Energy Department, for example, has set a 2015 deadline for the commercial viability of hydrogen powered vehicles but even this is considered false hope. A new report from the Government Accountability Office, a congressional watchdog agency, says that deadline will have to be pushed back.

It’s not all bad news for hydrogen fans. Despite the negativity there has been some significant progress. The cost of mass producing a fuel-cell powertrain has fallen from about $3,000 per kilowatt of output in the early 1990s to about $107 in 2006, and the Detroit 3 are still spending billions of dollars on fuel-cell R&D. Then there’s Honda, which beat everyone to the table when it unveiled the FCX Clarity last year.

At the end of the day, the success of a hydrogen fueled society ultimately depends on the fuel being readily available and sold at a reasonable price. We have the technology, what we need now is the infrastructure, but with carmakers focusing on biofuels and rechargeable electric vehicles it appears the hydrogen society will remain just a pipedream

Honda FCX Clarity