Across the country and around the globe, hybrid gas-electric vehicles are all the rage. But already, three automakers say they're ready to go further.

On Monday, Ford (NYSE:F), Nissan (NASDAQOTH:NSANY), Renault, and Daimler jointly announced a plan to take the next step in automotive technology, forming an alliance aimed at accelerating the commercialization of fuel cell-powered electric vehicles.

The three companies (Nissan and Renault appear to count themselves as one and the same) say their objective is to "develop a common fuel cell electric vehicle system while reducing investment costs associated with the engineering of the technology." Doing so will require them to develop a common hydrogen fuel cell stack and fuel cell system. This would then lead to the launch of the world's "first affordable, mass-market fuel cell electric vehicles as early as 2017."

Once developed, the common fuel cell system would be incorporated by each company into their various independently developed, branded fuel cell vehicles.

The first step, however, is figuring out how to make the system work, and make it economical enough to produce for the mass market. As Ford explained in a statement: "We will all benefit from this relationship, as the resulting solution will be better than any one company working alone."

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.