DaimlerChrysler Initiates Fuel Cell Trials at a New Test Center in California

Company joins other manufacturers in testing fuel cell vehicles in California.

Published: 01-Nov-2000

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Nov. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- In November, DaimlerChrysler will be initiating a series of test drives in California for a new fuel cell vehicle. The new-generation NECAR (New Electric Car), based on the Mercedes- Benz A-Class, was especially built for the "California Fuel Cell Partnership." This cooperation between automotive manufacturers, government authorities and energy suppliers has now opened a 50,000 square-foot base in Sacramento, Calif. which serves as a development center, maintenance depot and filling station. The jointly organized fleet tests are being launched simultaneously.

"The initiative we are taking in the California Fuel Cell Partnership plainly demonstrates DaimlerChrysler's firm resolve to maintain and further extend its lead in the development of new technologies," said Prof. Klaus- Dieter Vohringer, member of the Board of Management of DaimlerChrysler AG responsible for research and technology. "Fuel cell drive has the greatest potential of all alternative drive systems. Thanks to its high efficiency factor and the opportunity it provides for operation with regenerative fuels, fuel cell drive represents a veritable milestone along the road to securing sustainable mobility."

"In the California Fuel Cell Partnership, we have managed to bring together practically all influential companies and political institutions that are active in the field of fuel cell technology; they are now joining forces to consolidate the success of the fuel cell drive," said Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Panik, head of DaimlerChrysler's fuel cell project group. "We have now overcome the major technological obstacles facing the development of the fuel cell drive system. The task at hand is now to reduce the costs of the drive system even further and to pave the way for rapid introduction of these automobiles by 2004, for instance by establishing a fuel infrastructure. We can only be successful in this endeavor if the automotive manufacturers, energy suppliers and authorities work in cooperation -- this is why we have initiated the California project."

The California Fuel Cell Partnership was established in April 1999 at the initiative of DaimlerChrysler, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the California Energy Commission, the fuel cell manufacturer Ballard Power Systems, Ford Motor Company along with the energy suppliers ARCO, Shell and Texaco. The cooperation has since been extended to include a number of new partners such as Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Volkswagen, International Fuel Cells, the US Departments of Energy and Transportation and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

This joint project is aimed at demonstrating the everyday practicality of fuel cell vehicles, initiating intensive discussion on the topic of fuel cell infrastructures and preparing the California market for this new technology: Between 2000 and 2003, the partners intend to test more than fifty cars and buses incorporating this innovative drive technology under genuine everyday operating conditions -- on the basis of hydrogen, methanol and perhaps a purer form of gasoline. DaimlerChrysler is planning to incorporate 15 vehicles overall into the fleet test by the end of 2003.

25,000 miles of practical tests

Over the next three years, the new NECAR will cover up to 25,000 miles on the California roads under everyday operation conditions, continually supplying operational data for further development. Thanks to a new generation of components and an improved design, this new automobile has brought DaimlerChrysler a step closer to reaching series maturity for the fuel cell vehicle.

Unlike the NECAR 4 presented in 1999, the California NECAR operates on pressurized hydrogen. With its optimized 55-kilowatt electric drive system, it reaches a top speed of 90 mph and has further refined driving dynamics. The development engineers have been able to considerably reduce the weight and volume of both the drive system and the compact fuel cell unit, whose core comprises a Ballard Mark 900 Stack with an output of 75 kilowatts; for instance, the stack weighs only about two-thirds that of NECAR 4's unit and takes up only half as much space. As a result, the entire occupant cell and luggage compartment can now be used to full capacity.

The use of lightweight components, both in the interior and on the bodywork, reduces weight even further. Three hydrogen tanks with a maximum pressure of 350 bar are integrated into the vehicle; with a filling capacity of about 4 pounds of hydrogen, the new NECAR has an operating range of up to about 120 miles.

Fuel cells generate electrical power from hydrogen and atmospheric oxygen. These electric vehicles are the most promising of all alternative drive systems, combining the benefits of an internal combustion engine with lower fuel consumption, minimal pollutant emissions and lower noise levels. Moreover, their efficiency factors are considerably higher than those of conventional engines. DaimlerChrysler intends to introduce the first fuel cell buses in 2002 and the first fuel cell cars in 2004.

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