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Fuel Cell Vehicles to Hit Streets

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Fuel Cell Vehicles to Hit Streets

Tue Apr 9, 6:45 PM ET By ED GARSTEN, AP Auto Writer

DETROIT - After almost a decade of hailing fuel cell technology as the ultimate replacement for the internal combustion engine, automakers are slowly starting to sell some fuel-cell-powered vehicles.

Honda Motor Corp. plans to make a very small, but undetermined, number of fuel cell vehicles available next year, said Ben Knight, vice president for automotive engineering. "It's a great way to get feedback," he said.

DaimlerChrysler AG is launching a program in Europe with 30 fuel cell buses in 10 cities, said Dirk Walliser, one of the heads of the automaker's fuel cell project. "We find it is the furthest we can go into commercialization right now," he said.

And Ford Motor Co. is sending five fuel cell vehicles to California this year for evaluation, said Bruce Kopf, director of Th!nk Technologies at Ford. A "limited volume" of vehicles for fleets will be available in 2004, he said. "We haven't achieved a commercially viable design."

The automakers are sticking to their estimates that mass-produced, widely available fuel cell vehicles will not be possible until 2010 at the earliest, mainly due to cost, infrastructure and safety issues.

"Certainly there are technical challenges, but there's been so much public and private investment the public ought to expect these vehicles within the decade," said Jason Mark, a transportation analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Fuel cells use a chemical reaction between oxygen and hydrogen to produce electric power. When pure hydrogen is used the only tailpipe emission is harmless water vapor.

When hydrogen is extracted from gasoline or other fuel, harmful emissions are reduced, but not eliminated. However, to use fuels other than pure hydrogen, vehicles must be equipped with a heavy and expensive reformer that extracts hydrogen from those fuels.

Hydrogen, however, is a flammable gas posing safety concerns, especially in a crash. Several suppliers are working on strong but light onboard storage systems. The lack of a network of hydrogen filling stations presents another obstacle.

DaimlerChrysler expects to make more fuel cell vehicles available in the United States in 2004, mainly for fleet operations, Walliser said. GM and Nissan Motor Co. said they plan to make the vehicles available for fleet sales in 2005.

Toyota Motor Corp. (news - web sites) has made two hydrogen fuel cell vehicles based on its Highlander SUV available to the California Fuel Cell Partnership for evaluation, but it has not set a timetable for making fuel cell vehicles available for fleets or general consumers, spokesman Joe Tetherow said.

In January, the federal government announced a partnership with the U.S. automakers called Freedom CAR with the goal of accelerating the development of fuel cell vehicles and a hydrogen fueling infrastructure.

While the cost of fuel cell vehicles has fallen since they were first built in the late 1990s, they are still too expensive to sell at a profit.

With gasoline still relatively inexpensive in the United States, people are not motivated to pay more for vehicles that run on something else. "Who is going to invest in mass production without a market?" Ford's Kopf asked.

Daniel Becker, the Sierra Club (news - web sites)'s director of global warming (news - web sites) and energy programs, said U.S. automakers are dragging their feet in bringing fuel cell vehicles to market.

"This is the industry that said,
We can't make vehicles with seat belts, we can't make vehicles with air bags, we can't make vehicles that get 35 miles a gallon,'" Becker said.

GM's fuel cell research: Source: New Haven Register [Jun 19, 2002]

Spending $100M/year on it…

If just one of 25 vehicles currently in California had a fuel cell, those one million vehicles could generate more juice than the state's entire utility grid, Burns said.

But the company that first popularizes the fuel cell and removes the automobile from the environmental equation could become the Microsoft of the coming century.

GM, IBM and Others Using Alternative Energy To Power Plants

Carmaker and others buying electricity generated from wind farms and landfill gas.

Source: Reuters [Jun 18, 2002]

WASHINGTON - IBM Corp. , General Motors Corp and two other companies [Johnson & Johnson and Kinko's] said Yesterday they are buying electricity generated from wind farms and landfill gas as part of an environmental group's push to develop cleaner sources of energy.

The companies are members of a coalition led by the World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank which is trying to persuade corporate America to use more renewable energy. The green power group aims to help companies create 1,000 megawatts of renewable electricity by 2010. So far, the coalition has companies in a dozen states generating a total of 15 megawatts of renewable power.

One megawatt is enough to supply roughly 1,000 homes.

IBM said its plants in Minnesota and Texas were now buying more than 5.4 million kWh of wind-generated electricity annually. The use of renewable power and energy efficiency measures have helped the company cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 28 percent during the past decade, IBM said.

General Motors, another member of the coalition, said it was now using landfill gas to power boilers at a truck assembly plant in Indiana. The automaker plans to buy 8 million kWh or more of electricity generated from landfill gas in Michigan to power a vehicle parts plant.

Johnson & Johnson , a maker of health care products, said it installed solar photovoltaic systems totaling nearly 350 kilowatts on the rooftops of three of its buildings.

A fourth company, Kinko's, the chain of office copy shops, said it now buys renewable power at 80 of its U.S. stores. That amounts to about 4.2 million kWh annually bought from wind farms, landfill gas, geothermal sources and small hydroelectric power projects.

"The projects announced today are the result of a tremendous effort over the past two years to build the business case and create cost-competitive green power," Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute, said in a statement.

The coalition has urged Congress to offer more tax incentives for investment in green power projects and to create a single market for companies to trade emissions credits.

Senate and House negotiators are expected to meet in the next few weeks to try and finalize a single energy bill setting U.S. policy for renewables, crude oil, natural gas, electricity and hydropower.

The Senate's version of an energy bill would increase the amount of electricity generated from renewable energy sources to 10 percent by 2020, up from the current 2 percent. It would also allow voluntary reporting of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions for five years, but switch to mandatory reporting if companies failed to cooperate.

The House energy bill emphasized incentives to promote oil and gas drilling.


Metallic Power Tests World's First Refuelable On-Road Zinc Fuel Cell Vehicle

Technology holds the promise of delivering as much as five times the energy of the same weight of lead-acid batteries.

Source: Automotive Wire [Jun 18, 2002]

CHULA VISTA, Calif.--(AutomotiveWire)--June 18, 2002--Leading fuel cell developer Metallic Power will announce at this evening's City Council meeting that it has completed tests of what the company believes is the world's first refuelable on-road zinc fuel cell powered vehicle.

This milestone is especially significant because Metallic Power has accomplished the drive with very limited funding of less than $27 million in a relatively short three-year period. Energy alternatives using hydrogen and other fuels have benefited from billions of dollars in funding over more than a decade to reach this stage. In addition to demonstrating the viability of the concept, the company is aiming to show that the robust simplicity of its proprietary regenerative zinc/air fuel cells should lead to more rapid commercialization of products based on this technology. The technology demonstration, which began in Chula Vista, included more than 100 miles of test-driving on highways and surface streets over various terrains in humid coastal areas and the dry, hot Central Valley of California.

"We are pleased that our zinc fuel cells performed so well in this challenging test and demonstration project," said Dr. Jeffrey Colborn, chief executive officer of Metallic Power. "This project, partly sponsored with a grant totaling nearly $300,000 by several California State and local government agencies, has demonstrated the long-term viability of our technology for powering zero-emission electric cars, and at the same time has provided us valuable information that will help us to improve our core near-term products for telecommunications backup power."

The project was co-sponsored by Metallic Power, the City of Chula Vista, the California Energy Commission (CEC), the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee (MSRC), the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and the San Diego Air Pollution Control District.

According to California Energy Commissioner James D. Boyd, "We are enthusiastic supporters of this project and zinc fuel cell development at Metallic Power. The California Energy Commission believes this is an important technology, developed by a California-based company, that could play a major role in future power systems for both stationary and transportation applications, as well as providing job opportunities for Californians."

"Chula Vista is pro-actively working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the city has adopted a multi-faceted CO2 Reduction Plan," said Assistant City Manager George Krempl. "As part of that plan, we have committed to supporting cutting edge technology to improve our air quality and the environment. The zero emission zinc fuel cell powered vehicle will meet both goals."

Mayor Shirley Horton added, "Our city is at the forefront of supporting clean-air technologies and is proud to have played an important role in co-sponsoring this project."

For the demonstration, four of Metallic Power's prototype telecom backup power zinc fuel cell systems were fitted into a Geo Force sedan converted to Solectria's electric drive, with a small cargo compartment built into its rear. The company performed extensive laboratory tests on the system before taking it onto the highway. The test crew drove the vehicle at speeds reaching more than 50 mph and then rapidly refueled it in approximately 30 minutes using simple fuel hoses that can be optimized to make the process as simple as pumping gasoline. A small lead-acid battery bank connected in parallel with the vehicle's fuel cells provided extra power for short bursts of acceleration and hill climbing, while the fuel cells supplied the bulk of the energy for long-range driving. The technology holds the promise of delivering as much as five times the energy of the same weight of lead-acid batteries. As a result, such a vehicle could ultimately provide two to three times the range capability of a typical battery-powered electric vehicle. "This could someday enable zero-emission vehicles, with ranges of 300 miles or more, that consumers could safely refuel in a few minutes," explained Colborn.

Metallic Power's zinc fuel cells are fueled with small zinc pellets. As this fuel is consumed inside the fuel cell, it is combined with oxygen from the air to form zinc oxide, a common white powder found in sunblock and skin creams. During refueling, the zinc oxide (which remains dissolved in a liquid electrolyte) is pumped out of the vehicle while fresh fuel and electrolyte are pumped back in. The zinc oxide and spent electrolyte can be completely regenerated back into fresh fuel and electrolyte in a separate, stationary device also under development by the company.

"It's a completely closed-loop system," said Colborn. "There's nothing added, nothing wasted, and nothing to throw away or pollute the environment. While other metal/air technologies have been used to power vehicles, their implementation has required replacement or rebuilding of the cells rather than a simple refueling operation that we feel is a more commercially viable approach."

"We're very encouraged about the potential of Metallic Power zinc fuel cell technology to produce real, long-term emissions reductions in mobile sources of pollution," said MSRC Chairman William Kleindienst. "It will certainly help to continue the commercialization of zero emission vehicles into the marketplace."

According to Ray Alstadt, Metallic Power's vice president of product engineering, "These prototype systems performed well under more vibration, shock, dusty conditions and temperature variation than you would normally see in an indoor telecom backup power application. This project will accelerate our development of extremely robust and reliable telecom backup products in the near term while laying the first groundwork for future applications in transportation."

Pilot units of Metallic Power's first commercial product, a 1.25kW 24-hour backup power module for telecom backup power, are scheduled to be available to telecommunications carriers in late 2003. Photos are available for download on the Metallic Power Web site at:

USA Today on tax credits for hybrids

Hybrid vehicles: Easy on gas and your wallet 06/25/02

Cameron Diaz has one. So does Donny Osmond. Leonardo DiCaprio has two.

Hybrid sales still account for a tiny slice of the U.S. car market, with fewer than 29,000 hybrids sold in the past two years, according to the Electric Vehicle Association. But J.D. Power and Associates, a market research firm, estimates hybrid sales will hit 500,000 a year by 2006. J.D. Power also expects carmakers to introduce up to 20 hybrid models, including cars, trucks and SUVs, in the next four or five years.

Sandra Block is a personal finance writer for USA TODAY. Her Your Money column appears Tuesdays. E-mail Sandra at:

Green Power Starts for London's Red Buses in 2003

Three of London's famous red, double-deck buses will be powered by fuel cells starting in 2003.

Source: Reuters [Jun 28, 2002]

LONDON, June 28 (Reuters) - London's air pollution will be alleviated a little next year when the first environmentally friendly buses that emit no fumes roll on to the roads.

Transport for London (TFL), the newly-created body responsible for transport issues in the capital, will take delivery next year of three zero-emission buses powered by hydrogen fuel cells, in a two-year pilot project along with eight other European cities.

"We do anticipate that at least one of the buses will run on a central London route so that we can see how they work in the middle of the city and so Londoners can actually get a look at these buses," a TFL spokesman said.

The project has the backing of the European Commission, which in December last year awarded a grant of 18.5 million euros ($18.3 million) to the nine cities involved in the pilot: London, Madrid, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Hamburg and Stuttgart in Germany, Porto in Portugal, Stockholm and Luxembourg.

The three 70-seater buses to be supplied by EvoBus UK, part of German auto firm Daimler Chrysler DTEGn.DE , will arrive in early 2003 for everyday use in the smoggy capital, decked out in the familiar bright red livery of London's famous double-decker buses but with green technology under the hood.

States Compete to be Fuel Cell Capital

California, Michigan, Ohio and Texas vie to become major fuel cell development centers.

Source: Detroit Free Press [Jun 27, 2002] [CA MENTIONED IN LEAD ONLY]

Fuel cells are being hailed as the next big thing. They'll power our cars. Maybe even our homes. They're clean. They would reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil. And there is major money to be made.

That's why Michigan and Ohio have unveiled dueling state-sponsored programs intended to make each the worldwide leader in fuel cells.

In April, Gov. John Engler announced Michigan's NextEnergy Project, which is a comprehensive economic development plan geared toward making Michigan a world leader in the research, development, commercialization and manufacture of alternative energy technologies like fuel cells.

The NextEnergy plan, which experts say will cost close to $50 million over the next three to five years, will be a 700-acre, tax-free research zone in Washtenaw County's York Township, designed to attract alternative energy companies from around the world.

Around the same time, Ohio Gov. Robert Taft unveiled his state's Third Frontier Project -- a 10-year, $1.6-billion proposal to promote high-tech research. The fuel cell portion of that plan comes in the form of a three-year, $100-million plan to make Ohio a national leader in developing the new technology.

Much of Ohio's investment money will come in the form of low-interest loans, tax-exempt bond financing and employee hiring and training credit. While both states see the importance of preparing for fuel cells, each is approaching the oncoming technology revolution in different ways. While both plans rely heavily on tax and employment incentives, the Michigan plan offers cash incentives in addition to attractive financing options to court businesses into its NextEnergy research den.

"We're trying to make this the most comprehensive alternative energy program in the country, if not the world," said Tino Breithaupt, vice president of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC). "When it comes to competing directly with states, incentives usually play a role. Looking at our program, we're offering tax exemptions and a personal income tax refund, which is money back to a company, and I don't see that particularly highlighted in their plan. I'm not seeing (Ohio) offering hard incentives that make a difference to a company's bottom line."

The MEDC and its president, Doug Rothwell, have taken on the task of selling Engler's Next-Energy plan to businesses and governments around the world with a vengeance. Today, for example, Rothwell will explain the Michigan plan to the House science subcommittee on energy in Washington, D.C.

"We've been to Europe, Canada and throughout this country to discuss our initiative with a number of companies," Breithaupt said. "Folks have been very excited about what we're doing and the timing seems to be right on the money."

He added that the MEDC has several commitments from companies interested in becoming involved with NextEnergy.

Fuel costs would go down Fuel cells use stored hydrogen and oxygen from the air to produce electricity. In vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells are virtually pollution free because they create only water. They don't release carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide or any of the by-products created by the burning of gasoline in an internal combustion engine.

Once perfected, they could be used to power cars and to replace gasoline-powered generators and even batteries. For example, camping gear maker Coleman plans to market a 1-kilowatt generator that runs on a fuel cell made by Ballard Power Systems by the end of this year.And one day not long from now, people will be walking around with micro-fuel cells that power handheld computers and other electronic devices.

"Realistically we're looking at least a decade or so down the road to make it commercially viable for consumers," said Sung Won Sohn, executive vice president and chief economist with Wells Fargo Bank in Minneapolis. "But it could have a tremendous impact potentially in that fuel costs would go down significantly. If we had a fuel cell technology which could potentially replace gasoline and oil, it would be one of the best things for the U.S. and global economy."

Both Michigan and Ohio have several corporations doing fuel cell research, including Energy Conversion Devices in Rochester Hills and Graftech Inc. and NexTech Materials Ltd. in Ohio.

Automakers General Motors Corp., DaimlerChrysler AG and Ford Motor Co. are also eager to be leaders in what is expected to become a $95-billion-a-year industry by the end of this decade. Each has already come out with concept cars and all plan to introduce fuel cell powered vehicles in the near future.

States may have to join forces Experts say fuel cells and other alternative energy sources like wind and solar power have been embraced by environmentalists because they offer a cleaner source of energy that could reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

"We do support NextEnergy," said Lana Pollack, director of the Michigan Environmental Council. "In order to move this along, we've got to encourage people to invent and develop and commercialize products that are compatible with consumer needs, and NextEnergy can play a role in that."

In fact, fuel cell technology is seen as a natural replacement for the internal combustion engine down the road.The federal Department of Energy, with its Freedom CAR program, is gearing up for the coming of fuel cell technology in the next couple of decades. But it is the state-sponsored plans like NextEnergy and Third Frontier that will have the biggest impact on creating high-paying jobs that will affect living standards throughout the Midwest. And as is true with most everything between Buckeyes and Wolverines, the competition will be fierce.

Nonetheless, it's going to be a challenge for Michigan to become the jewel of all fuel cell areas in the country, according to the author of the working paper that spawned the state's NextEnergy Project.

"When you look at this, you don't generally perceive Michigan as being a clean energy state and it's not always seen as friendly to start-up companies," said Brett Smith, senior analyst for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

"And you've got a lot of programs in places like Vancouver, California and Texas that are clustering companies similarly to what happened in Silicon Valley."

But some observers point to potential regional similarities that might help bring much of the Rust Belt together when it comes to fuel cells.

Most all leaders of Midwest states recognize that commodity manufacturing is a declining economic base and that some collective thinking must happen for the region to take advantage of at least some of the opportunities that fuel cells present. That is why there has been some talk of joint efforts for the entire region.

"I think this is going to be a huge industry eventually, so the Midwest ought to put our resources together and stop worrying about who's ahead and who's behind," said Bruce Johnson, director of the Ohio Department of Development. "There has to be a cohesive agreement that we can come up with where the Europeans and Japanese won't steal our thunder."

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