Honda surprised many at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show with the announcement that they will be putting a hydrogen fuel cell car into production next year for general sale. The company will produce fewer than 1,000 units. And though it makes perfect sense that Honda, over anyone else, would be the one to hit the production line first with this technology, most didn’t see this move coming for another five to seven years.

Honda surprised many at the Tokyo Motor Show with the announcement that they will be putting a hydrogen fuel cell car into production next year for general sale. The company will produce fewer than 1,000 units. And though it makes perfect sense that Honda, over anyone else, would be the one to hit the production line first with this technology, most didn’t see this move coming for another five to seven years. Hydrogen is generally regarded as the long-term vision for eco-friendly alternative fuels.

Based on Honda’s futuristic FCX concept car, the new vehicle will feature the silent ride and zero emissions attributed to fuel cells, which create electricity through a chemical process that emits only water vapor at the tailpipe. Furthermore, the vehicle will be able to travel an estimated 270 miles between refueling stops, and will display a range meter instead of a fuel gauge within the four-seater cabin. The potential hang-up, however, will be infrastructure, as there are a very limited number of hydrogen fueling stations in place throughout the U.S. Honda President Takeo Fukui, however, doesn’t seem too worried about that issue, confidently stating “When the demand is there, it [the hydrogen economy] will happen.” That’s the kind of forward thinking that seems to be leading Honda to make this major push in the first place. Now that the seal is broken, it’s likely that other automakers will follow with a sense of urgency.

The vehicle will initially be made available to Japan and the U.S. It will be shown to the public this November at the Los Angeles Auto Show.