SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Fuel cells will face their biggest real-world test to date next year when the first vehicles hit the streets in a California demonstration program.
The California Fuel Cell Partnership is scheduled to put as many as 50 fuel-cell-powered light vehicles and buses into fleet use in California by 2003.
The three-phase program was announced here Tuesday, April 20, in a ceremony presided over by California Gov. Gray Davis and officials from Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler, fuel-cell maker Ballard Power Systems and several oil companies.
The program is designed to rack up more miles with the technology before the expected launch of the first salable fuel-cell-powered vehicles by DaimlerChrysler in 2004.
Automotive fuel cells have ventured beyond the laboratory only in a handful of show cars and prototype buses being tested in Chicago and in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Fuel cells replace batteries as the on-board power source for drive motors in electric vehicles. They can operate on a range of hydrogen-rich fuels, such as gasoline, methanol or pure hydrogen, which are the fuels that will be tested in the program.
They generate electricity by stripping the electrons from the hydrogen molecules as they pass through a membrane, then recombining the particles with oxygen to form water vapor, the only tailpipe emission.