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Two of California's pioneering EV advocates get a chance to check out for us the latest in fuel cell powered electric-drive vehicles at the official ribbon cutting ceremony in Sacramento.

Partnership Showcases Record Fuel Cell Vehicle Gathering

California Fuel Cell Partnership opens its doors for business.

By Don McGrath and Bob Wing

At a ceremony attended by more than 400, the doors to the newly constructed California Fuel Cell Partnership headquarters facility were opened on November 1, 2000. The new 55,000 square-foot facility includes a hydrogen fueling station, offices, work bays for partnership members, and a public gallery with educational exhibits, fuel cell models, and an interactive kiosk. The facility will house more than 50 fuel cell vehicles that will be tested on California's diverse roadways in real world driving conditions. Twenty fuel cell buses will also be demonstrated in regular transit operations.

The California Fuel Cell Partnership was formed in April 1999. The Partnership is intended to promote development and public acceptance of FCV's over the next four years.

Many of the participating partners and associates gave brief presentations before the exhibits opened. Ride and drive opportunities were provided later. For the first time in history seven fuel cell cars were gathered together at one time for this event. Three fuel cell buses were also demonstrated.

This was by far the most exciting of any EV show exhibits to date, surpassing the excellent exhibits at EVS-12 at Disneyland, California and EVS-14 at Orlando, Florida. These fuel cell vehicles provide us with a look at the future of ultra low pollution transportation.

Inaugural Ceremonies

The inaugural ceremonies were MC'd by Alan Lloyd, Chairman of the state of California Air Resources Board, who introduced the Partner members. Partner members as of today include automakers DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen; energy providers BP, Shell, and Texaco; fuel cell companies Ballard Power Systems and International Fuel Cells (IFC); and state and national agencies concerned with clean transportation.

John Wallace, executive director of Ford's TH!NK group and Chairman of the Partnership Steering Committee, was then asked to introduce the Associate Partners assisting in certain specialties that include hydrogen gas suppliers Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., and Praxair; Methanex, a methanol fuel supplier; and bus transit companies AC Transit, operating in the San Francisco Bay area, and Sunline Transit Agency, Palm Springs, CA.

Following the introductory talks, a hydrogen fueling demonstration was given, using a Honda's new FCX-V3. After the fueling demonstration, visitors were treated to a parade of prototype Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs), which included the Ford P2000, the Ford Focus FCV, the Honda FCX-V3, Volkswagen's Bora HyMotion, the DaimlerChrysler NECAR 4, the Nissan FCV, and Hyundai's Santa Fe FCEV Parked nearby were three FCBs (Fuel Cell Busses), two XCELLSIS-powered buses, one being tested by Sunline and the other owned by the Federal Transportation Administration, and a bus by Daimler Benz.

Hydrogen Storage

The West Sacramento hydrogen fueling station is modeled after similar facilities in Dearborn, MI and Nabern, Germany. Liquid hydrogen is delivered by truck and stored in a 4,500 gallon tank.

At present, it provides gaseous hydrogen at two pressures, 3,600 psi and 5,000 psi. The dispensers look like a gas station hose, one size filler nozzle for cars at the lower pressure and another set for busses. Fueling of fuel cell vehicles is quick and automated, taking just four minutes. Methanol distribution is expected on-site later. If there is a need for delivery of liquid hydrogen in the future, the capability can be easily added.

Exhibits and Ride and Drive

1. The Honda FCX-V3 is a truly fine piece of engineering. It is based upon the EV+ platform. With regen braking power pumped into a Honda-developed ultra capacitor, it is quiet, has very peppy acceleration, and has very adequate room in both front and back seats. Instrumentation is similar to that of the EV+ but is totally new, designed for FCV operation. Honda's 3rd generation FCX has a 10-second start-time, compared to 10 minutes for previous models. The fuel is pure hydrogen stored at 3600 psi in a 100 liter composite carbon fiber tank. The FCX-V3 has a 60 kW motor, weighs 1750 Kg (3850 lobs) with a range of 110 miles

2. The Ford four-door Focus FCV is based on the Focus gas car and labeled as being powered by TH!NK to highlight the company's environmental brand. The heart of the car's drive train is a Ballard Mark 900 fuel cell stack. This model has a 67 kW motor capable of speeds up to 75 mph but no regeneration. In the Ford work bay there were several other Th!nk models, a smaller two passenger for local street use at under 35 mph and a golf cart type with roof but no doors for use in gated communities. Ford has set up a new assembly plant for alternative fueled vehicles at Carlsbad, Calif, north of San Diego. Th!nk models will be assembled there. Ford, along with DaimlerChrysler, is a major investor in Ballard and part of joint ventures with the two of them for marketing both fuel cell power plants (XCELLIS) and electric drive trains (Ecostar}.

3. The Ford P2000 fuel cell passenger car is a 4 door sedan with a curb weight of 3340 lobs, 100 mile range, Ballard Mark 700 Series fuel cells, 67 kW motor with peak efficiency of 91%. The Ford P2000 was driven in the Ride and Drive. The P2000 is a first generation vehicle, superseded by the Focus FCV. Acceleration was only fair, and there was a lot of noise from the air compressor used to inject air into the fuel cell. Based upon the specifications, the Focus FCV should be a significant improvement, but unfortunately, there was no time to test drive it.

4. The Hyundai FCEV had its first public showing at West Sacramento and is a light weight aluminum chassis based on the gas Santa Fe SUV. It uses International Fuels FCs which produce 75 kW of power and is built on an aluminum chassis, 65 kW motor.It is equipped with a 5000 psi storage tank enabling the vehicle to go more than 100 miles on one fueling. Electric drive train, motor and control unit are from Enova systems of Torrance CA. Top speed is 77 mph, range 100 miles and weight 3,572 lb, 0-60 13.4 sec, starting time 10 secs.

5. The DaimlerChrysler NECAR 4 The Necar 4 was test driven. It is quite small, roomy enough for two adults in the front seat but the back seat only large enough for children. Acceleration was adequate. An unusual feature was the regenerative braking system, which was used to heat water, presumably for passenger cabin heating.

6. The DaimlerChrysler NECAR 5 (new electric car), also called the California NECAR, is based on the Mercedes-Benz A-class and was especially built for the California Fuel Cell partnership showing. It has a 50 kW electric drive system, a Ballard Mark 900 Stack with an output of 75 kW. The stack weighs on about 2/3 of the NECAR 4 unit and takes up only half as much space. As a result the entire passenger and luggage compartment can now be used to full capacity. Top speed is 90 mph, the operating range is about 120 miles.

7. This GM Opel fuel cell car is GM's seventh generation model, it was developed in Germany and the US and it is based on an Opel Zafira 5-seat passenger van which half the size of GM's previous model and 25% smaller that its nearest competitor. This was used as the pace car at the 2000 Olympic marathon in Sydney, Australia last summer. Costs are reduced as the fuel cell requires only half the platinum previously used. A commercial version is at least 4 or 5 years away. This car model is half the size of GM's previous model and 15% smaller than it's newest competitor. Reporter Bob Wing can attest to that! He had trouble getting his six foot frame through the door and into the seat. In fact all of the models in the ride and drive were a tough fit for head room. The Zafira has a range of 250 miles per fill-up of liquid hydrogen and an 87 mph top speed.

8. The Nissan Xtera FCV was shown to EVS-17 in Montreal several weeks ago. No other info as Nissan has not responded to our request for a media kit.

9. There was a mock up of VW Bora Hymotion but neither author saw it.

Panel Discussion

In the afternoon, Mr. Wallace chaired a panel of 22 experts from automobile companies, energy companies, fuel cell manufacturers and government. All agreed that many obstacles must be overcome, including lack of infrastructure, high cost, and short vehicle range. The partnership is still in a precompetitive phase and a cooperative effort is essential. The path to a hydrogen economy is not clear. The general public's first exposure to fuel cells will likely not be FCEVs. It's much more likely that the first consumer-oriented products will be auxiliary power units and portable power supplies. Consumers will not buy FCEVs because of low emissions. An example is the failure of battery EVs to create a market. Consumers will only buy FCEVs if and when it is economically advantageous to do so. Several speakers felt that fuel cells had a great future in distributed power, particularly in areas where there is no well established or extensive power grid. As for vehicles, the first applications will be for public transportation (e.g., buses) and for fleets. The most often quoted date for introduction of is 2004.

Don McGrath can be reached at vinter@napanet.net

Bob Wing at bwing@svn.com

Photo Credit: Bruce Parmenter (brucedp@iname.com)

Times Article Viewed: 4880
Published: 01-Jan-2000

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