Reprinted from the LA Times, 3-31-05

Hydrogen Vehicle Deals Signed

GM and Daimler reach agreements with the Department of Energy to develop experimental fuel-cell-powered fleets.

From Associated Press
General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler have signed agreements with the Department of Energy to develop hydrogen fuel cell vehicles over the next five years, the automakers said Wednesday.

GM, the world's largest automaker, plans to build a fleet of 40 hydrogen-fuel-powered vehicles. Under the program, GM will spend $44 million to distribute the vehicles in Washington, New York, California and Michigan. The Energy Department also will provide $44 million in the deal, which is set to expire in September 2009.

DaimlerChrysler, which has the largest fleet of fuel-cell-powered vehicles of any automaker, will invest more than $70 million in its partnership with the Energy Department, the German American company said.

"If our research program is successful, it is not unreasonable to think that we could be approaching commercialization and mass marketing of these kinds of vehicles in maybe 15 years," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said at the National Hydrogen Assn.'s annual conference in Washington, which coincided with the automakers' announcements.

Bodman said "learning demonstration teams" involving ChevronTexaco Corp., Hyundai Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler, BP, Ford Motor Co., Ballard Power Systems Inc., GM and Shell would evaluate the fuel cells under hot and cold conditions and consider production options and hydrogen infrastructure.

Under the agreement, DaimlerChrysler will place fuel-cell-powered vehicles with consumers who will give feedback on the vehicles' performance. The company said it already was testing 100 such vehicles in various locations around the world.

DaimlerChrysler is developing a range of fuel-cell-powered vehicles, including the Mercedes F-Cell, a four-door passenger car; the Dodge Fuel Cell Sprinter van; and a fleet of fuel-cell-powered Mercedes Citaro buses.

Fuel cells run on the energy produced when hydrogen and oxygen are mixed, rather than using gasoline. The only byproduct of a fuel cell is water. The technology has been used in experimental vehicles and as a power supply for some buildings.

Detroit-based GM also announced that Shell Hydrogen would set up five hydrogen refueling stations in Washington, New York, California and along the Eastern seaboard.

The automaker said the Army at Fort Belvoir, Va., and Quantum Technologies in Lake Forest would provide facilities for GM to store and maintain fuel cells.

President Bush has pushed a $1.7-billion research program to develop hydrogen as the U.S.' next energy source and predicted that Americans would drive cars operated by hydrogen-powered fuel cells in two decades.

Most major automakers are developing fuel cells but say the cost of the vehicles and a lack of fueling stations make them unmarketable at this time.