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Honda's FCX Clarity FCEV has been on European roads since 2009 (Photo: Honda)

Four automakers on Thursday attempted to revive public interest in fuel-cell technology with the start of a one-month long European road show.

With attention focused primarily on a slew of new battery-powered vehicles entering global markets, Toyota, Daimler, Honda and Hyundai are joining forces to show that hydrogen-powered fuel-cell EVs already present a viable alternative. Toyota said it is working to commercialize its next-generation fuel-cell car by 2015.

The four carmakers Thursday embarked on a nine-city European tour that puts on display seven FCEVs built by the companies. The general public will be able to test drive the cars and see what advantages they have over battery-powered vehicles. Key among these advantages are a greater driving range and shorter refueling times.

"Fuel-cell electric vehicles are the ultimate mobility solution, providing a practical, clean and near silent answer to transport requirements," said Thomas Brachmann, head of electrical powertrain r&d at Honda Europe.

A dearth of refueling stations is a key obstacle to the growth of fuel-cell powered vehicles. Toyota said in a press release that the tour wants to press home the point that "there is a real need to improve hydrogen distribution infrastructure."

And Christian Mohrdieck, director drive development fuel cell system at Daimler, said: "The success of this technology depends crucially on certain conditions being in place, such as the availability of a nationwide hydrogen infrastructure.”

Fuel-cells transform hydrogen’s chemical energy into electricity and heat, emitting only pure water. In combination with an electric motor, they can power vehicles and deliver a much higher driving range and faster refueling time than battery electric vehicles.