TORRANCE (CNS) - Hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars may be ready to hit California roads by next year, and the ability to power them up at gas stations is also in the works, officials said today.

Four car manufacturers -- Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes -- have plans to sell the hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars by 2015, but there are only nine active fueling stations in California, according to Rebecca Lee, a spokeswoman for Toyota.

There are plans to increase that number to 20 by next year, with 100 more shortly after that, Stephen Ellis, manager of fuel cell vehicle marketing for the American Honda Motor Co., said at a hydrogen vehicle workshop in Torrance.

“We're working on making California ready for these cars,” Ellis said. “That includes working with the government, state of California, for a hydrogen station network.”  

The workshop at Toyota's AutomobileMuseum in Torrance was aimed at bringing fuel cell vehicle manufacturers together with elected, building, public safety and planning officials.  

Under California's Zero Emission Vehicle standard, a certain percentage of auto sales have to be zero-emission vehicles. The require for 2014 is 1 percent of sales, moving to 16 percent of sales by 2015. Currently, electric vehicles are the only ones that are zero-emission. 

Vehicle manufacturers are looking to hydrogen cars to help drive sales to reach the threshold. The estimated cost for a hydrogen fuel-cell powered car is about $50,000.

That price will go down once demand goes up and the infrastructure is in place, Ellis said.

“What we have is a public-private partnership between state government funding, automakers and people that provide hydrogen for industrial purposes to bring it together at your corner retail gas station,” Ellis said. “Then people can drive the cars and drive all over California.”