GM fuel cell car hits Japan roads

GM fuel cell car hits Japan roads

By Jeff Havens, Staff Writer

Last week’s issue of The Rock River Times described how Los Angeles took delivery of the first of five Japanese-made fuel cell cars from Honda Motor Company, Ltd. The event was announced in a giant two page, center-spread advertisement in the Dec. 16 edition of USA Today. Not to be outdone, American automaker General Motors (GM) took out a full-page ad in the Dec. 24 USA Today that advertised the first fuel cell car to hit the road in Japan.

Package deliverer FedEx will collaborate with GM to test the HydroGen3 fuel cell vehicle under real-life conditions in Tokyo. The testing program will last for one year from June 2003 to June 2004. The HydroGen3 is the first fuel cell vehicle, powered with liquid hydrogen, to be run on public roads in Japan.

The HydroGen3 has a range of 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) per tankful, and a top speed of 160 kilometers per hour (about 100 miles per hour). In July, GM and QUANTUM Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide, Inc., received certification from Germany’s Technical Inspection Association for a 10,000 pounds per square inch (p.s.i or 700 bar) hydrogen storage system that could allow fuel cell vehicles to achieve a driving range of 300 miles.

GM officials were unavailable for comment to confirm whether the 10,000 p.s.i. tank would be used in the vehicle. Other fuel cell vehicles, such as the Honda FCX, operate using a 5,000 p.s.i. tank, which decreases its driving range. Los Angeles officials said the driving range of its fuel cell vehicle is 100 to 200 miles per tankful.

Due to limitations to present fuel cell technology, fuel cell stacks are damaged in freezing weather. This means that cold weather states such as Illinois can only operate fuel cell vehicles in warm weather. However, Art Garner, director of Public Relations for Honda Motor Company, Ltd., said he believes cold weather obstacles will be overcome soon.

Freezing weather is rarely experienced in Japan, which may have played a role in why GM chose Japan to introduce its zero emission vehicle. However, GM representatives were not available to comment on why they didn’t introduce their vehicle in the mild climate of Los Angeles before Honda.

The coming advancements in technology may place Rockford-area officials in a position to help lead the way to a future that retires the internal combustion engine and its associated societal and environmental problems.

Critics of the internal combustion engine and Americans’ love for vehicles, especially large ones, have said the United States has built a society around vehicles, rather than people. The result, say critics, is that the U.S. has increased its dependence on foreign sources for energy and accelerated the rate of global warming.

Use of fuel cells in cars, homes, businesses, computers, watches and many other devices represents another step toward a sustainable and independent energy future, say supporters of renewable energy.

The fuel cell works by combining the hydrogen fuel with oxygen from the air to produce water and electricity. The electricity produced through this chemical reaction is used to power the vehicle.

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