Japanese car manufacturer Honda looks ready to steal a march on its rivals with the announcement that its hydrogen powered fuel cell vehicle could be ready for mass production in three to four years, somewhat ahead of the 10 year estimates proposed by the majority of its competitors.

Hydrogen powered vehicles produce no significant emissions, making them far more environmentally friendly than petrol cars. In the past the technology has been considered too bulky and inefficient for commercial use, problems Honda now claims to have overcome.

The company says a new hydrogen absorption material in the fuel tank will double storage capacity to 5kg of hydrogen at 5000 PSI, extending cruising range to 350 miles, equivalent to that of a gasoline-engine car without the need for a large storage unit.

Alongside development of the car, Honda also announced that it was developing a home energy station which will generate hydrogen from natural gas supplied for residential use, allowing drivers to refuel their vehicles from home.

According to the car maker, the station’s fuel cells will be able to generate and supply electricity to the home, and the heat produced during power generation recycled for water heating. In addition to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by some 40%, Honda says its home energy station could lower the total running cost of household electricity, gas and vehicle fuel by 50%, something which could prove a significant lure to homeowners not even considering a new car.

Honda has said the car will resemble its FCX concept vehicle recently unveiled at the Detroit motor show. With environmental concerns and the escalating price of fuel increasingly affecting motorists, the hydrogen car may prove to be as successful for Honda as the Prius hybrid has been for Toyota.