Ah, South Carolina -- birthplace of James Brown, Jesse Jackson and that poor Miss Teen USA contestant whose garbled response to a simple question about maps cost her the pageant crown.

Yes, South Carolina might bring a number of ideas to mind, but chances are that progressive environmental practices aren't among them. Or at least not in comparison with, say, California.

But the Palmetto State's Center for Hydrogen Research (CHR) and Phoenix-based electric-vehicle-charging company eTec, which was bought by Ecotality in November, announced Friday that they've registered the first hydrogen-powered car in the state.

Moreover, this is no ordinary-looking, sedan-style hydrogen vehicle -- it's a Chevy Silverado pick-up truck! Somehow, it seems fitting.

"To the average person, very little will appear different under the hood," said Fred Humes of the CHR last November, when the collaboration between CHR and eTec was announced (see press release).

Of course, while South Carolina might have been the first state to secede from the Union, it's far from the first state to get a hydrogen vehicle.

More than 175 fuel-cell passenger cars and transit buses already are cruising California roads as part of various demonstration and validation programs, according to the California Fuel Cell Partnership. And Washington, New York and Michigan also have demonstration fuel-cell vehicles.

Still, the news underlines the state's commitment to hydrogen. After all, the CHR is the largest hydrogen-research center in the United States. And South Carolina committed $15 million for hydrogen and fuel-cell research in August.

Facing numerous technology and business challenges, including high cost, fuel-cell vehicles are still years -- and some say decades -- away from commercialization (see Ballard Auto Business For Sale and Daimler, Ford Buy Ballard's Auto Business).

But South Carolina hopes to be on the forefront of hydrogen research if or when that day comes. Perhaps it fits in with the state's motto: Animis Opibusque Parati, or Prepared in Mind and Resources.

-- Editor Jennifer Kho contributed to this story.