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Heard on the Beat / TECHNOLOGY

Fuel-Cell Car Prototypes:

October 30, 2000|TERRIL YUE JONES

Eight auto makers that account for the bulk of cars and trucks sold in California will present prototypes of fuel-cell-powered vehicles Wednesday for a three-year experiment leading to what they hope will be commercialization of the nonpolluting vehicles by 2003.

General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Volkswagen and Hyundai will present their latest fuel-cell vehicles to the California Fuel Cell Partnership at the dedication of the partnership's new headquarters in West Sacramento.

Under California law, 10% of major auto makers' vehicles sold in 2003 must be zero-emissions vehicles or super-ultra-low-emissions vehicles.

Fuel cells use hydrogen to power battery-operated vehicles. Fuel-cell cars to date have run on pure hydrogen, producing only water as a byproduct, or on a hydrocarbon fuel such as gasoline or methanol, emitting carbon dioxide.

GM will present a fuel-cell vehicle based on the Zafira compact minivan it sells in Europe; the prototype runs on liquid hydrogen and has a driving range of 400 miles. Ford's entry, based on its hot-selling Focus compact, uses compressed hydrogen gas and has a range of 100 miles.

The partnership--formed last year by auto makers, energy providers, fuel-cell companies and California state agencies--plans to put more than 50 fuel-cell vehicles on the road by 2003 and study how to develop the required fuel infrastructure.

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