DETROIT - If DaimlerChrysler builds it and makes it affordable, customers will buy it.
That is the automaker's green-vehicle strategy. DaimlerChrysler wants to develop a car powered by a fuel cell by 2004, but the real challenge is making it affordable, said Werner Pollmann, D/C chief environmental officer.
'A lot of people are asking for environmentally friendly cars, but nobody is prepared to pay money for this, and therefore I think it's a challenge for the engineers to fulfill both items,' Pollmann said Thursday, Aug. 19, at the company's U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills. Pollmann issued the company's annual environmental report.
DaimlerChrysler unveiled its latest fuel-cell creation, the Necar 4, in March. The Necar 4 is a driveable prototype that seats five, travels 280 miles on a fill-up of hydrogen and emits only water vapor from the tailpipe.
Fuel cells can replace batteries as a power source for electric motors. A fuel cell makes electricity by passing hydrogen molecules through a membrane to strip away electrons and create electric current.
'If we as a company do not have the products our customers want in the future, we're in deep trouble,' said Reginald Modlin, director of DaimlerChrysler environmental and energy planning.
Automakers are in a race to develop commercially viable green vehicles, he said.
'The companies that can do that first will be successful, and we plan to be there,' Modlin said.
DaimlerChrysler is spending about $250 million a year on fuel-cell development, Pollmann said. 'We have to reduce the cost; otherwise, we will not have any chance in the market,' he said.
Meanwhile, DaimlerChrysler is researching clean diesels.
'We need a different kind of injection, more precise, and very small droplets,' Pollmann said. 'We are expecting to come to a cleaner combustion with nearly no soot or carbon particles in the exhaust.'
That could take 10 to 15 years to develop, but, in the interim, other steps can be developed to make diesel engines more attractive, including removing sulfur from diesel fuel, Pollmann said.
'We shouldn't kill the diesel,' he said. 'It would be a very big mistake.'