New Fuel Cell Vehicles Have Real-World Appeal

The green initiatives are hugely expensive, costing billions in annual research outlays, but automakers have no choice: Regulatory, environmental and social pressures to sell clean cars are mounting in the United States, Europe and Japan.

Published: 12-Jan-2008

Ten years ago, there was no mistaking a fuel cell vehicle for a sports sedan: The typical fuel cell prototype was a van crammed with fuel cell stacks and batteries that barely left room for a driver.

But now the world's leading automakers are rolling out a new generation of fuel cell cars that are practical, attractive and road-ready after resolving some tricky technological issues.

In Honda Motor Co.'s new FCX Clarity, which will be on display next week at the North American International Auto Show, the fuel cell stack that converts hydrogen to electric power fits snugly between the front seats of a low-slung sedan that accommodates four people and their luggage.

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The system operates from the Calor Gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or propane that is already on board for cooking. The system will fit comfortably in an aft locker, normally used for a conventional generator.

The Cadillac Provoq fuel cell concept uses GM's E-Flex propulsion system, combining the new fifth-generation fuel cell system and a lithium-ion battery to produce an electrically driven vehicle that uses no petroleum and has no emission other than water.

Powered by a 100 kW electric engine and fuel cell stack, the i-Blue is capable of running more than 370 miles per refueling and achieves a maximum speed of more than 100 miles per hour.

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