Look for at least “eight to ten” commercially produced fuel-cell vehicles on the road by 2009, says a study by the Cleveland-based Freedonia Group. On top of that, the researchers predict the number of electric vehicles in use will number 8.5 million by then.

Worldwide sales of electric vehicles (including hybrids employing both gasoline or diesel engines and electric motors) will reach 2.5 million units — valued at $45 billion — in 2009 and will make up 4.5% of total vehicle sales in North America, Western Europe and Japan. The researchers suggest that battery-powered electric vehicles will remain a small niche in the market.

In the five years between 2004 and 2009, electric vehicle sales will post annual growth rates of better than 25%, Freedonia researchers say.