Toyota showed this fuel-cell powered sedan concept, called the FCV-R, in 2011. A similar car is expected to go into production by 2015. Fuel cell vehicles are emerging as a rival technology to battery-electric cars. Photo credit: Toyota

To hear fans of Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) tell it, our battery-operated automotive future is inevitable. But ask experts in the auto business, and they'll tell you that battery-electric systems like the one in Tesla's Model S are just one of several technologies that could eventually replace gasoline engines in our cars of the future.

For instance, Toyota (NYSE:TM) -- the world's hybrid-car leader -- has made a big bet on fuel cells, which enable electric cars to run on hydrogen rather than batteries. Toyota is far from alone -- automakers from Ford (NYSE:F) and General Motors (NYSE:GM) to Honda (NYSE:HMC) and Hyundai(NASDAQOTH:HYMTF) are putting big bucks behind fuel-cell development as well.

As Motley Fool contributor John Rosevear explains in this video, the future of the automobile is still an open question -- but hydrogen fuel cells could end up having some major advantages over batteries, and that is driving some very big investments.

Fool contributor John Rosevear owns shares of Ford and General Motors. You can connect with him on Twitter at @jrosevearThe Motley Fool recommends Ford, General Motors, and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford and Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.