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US and California flags fly over Monterey Plaza for start of fuel cell rally
United States and State of California flags fly over Custom House Plaza in Monterey, California, the start of the very first fuel cell vehicle road rally.

California Coast 2002 Rally Photos

Hot off our new Canon G2 digital camera.

By Bill Moore

The California Fuel Cell Partnership and the Green Car Group invited EV World to cover the first-ever road rally of hydrogen-powered, fuel cell vehicles. The rally would start in Monterey and wind down the scenic but challenging Highway 1 to Santa Barbara, over 300 miles to the south. Of the seven vehicles that began the rally, five completed the trip, often at speeds in excess of 65 mph.

We recorded this historic event with photographs, video and personal interviews with many of the participants. You can view some of the more than 300 high-resolution photos we took by clicking the Rally Photo Album link.

When the rally was over and the remaining five teams could relax, it was clear that they had passed an important milestone, one they weren't entirely confident they could achieve when they started their fuel cell stacks in the plaza at Monterey.

The first day would be relatively easy with a brief parade around the Monterey Peninsula. Day two would be the most daunting for the fuel cells as the winding, twisting ribbon of highway between Carmel and San Simeon would tax the responsiveness of the drive systems and their overall range. Day three would subject the vehicles to more typical California freeway driving conditions as the rally motored from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara, passing through newly established vineyards and out onto the wind-buffeted coast west northwest of Santa Barbara.

The car would refuel four times between Carmel and Santa Barbara, twice along the Big Sur section of Highway One, once in San Luis Obispo and the fourth time between Santa Maria and Santa Barbara.

Certainly the rally was more than just about building public awareness, although that was certainly part of the story. Equally important was the technical data the teams collected, information that will, even in failure, enable each carmaker to continue to improve their technology.

Still, the most common questions bystanders asked were, "When would they be available for sale?", "How much would they cost?", and "Where would the hydrogen come from?" All good questions for which there are few good answers at this point. But as the rally demonstrated, we're beginning to sense the direction in which the answers will be found.

Watch more more coverage on the rally in the coming weeks.

Times Article Viewed: 4165
Published: 08-Sep-2002

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