DaimlerChrysler introduces car powered by fuel cells
DaimlerChrysler's fuel-cell-powered car has a top speed of 90 mph and goes 280 miles before refueling
|Take a ride with CNN's Kathleen Koch
March 17, 1999
Web posted at: 9:54 a.m. EST (1454 GMT)
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- DaimlerChrysler debuted a new
small car Wednesday -- but it's not your typical compact.
Open the trunk and find a tank of liquid hydrogen. In the
engine, fuel cells convert the liquid hydrogen and oxygen
from the air into electricity and water to power the vehicle.
"It's about 50 percent more fuel-efficient than vehicles of
today," said Bernard Robertson, a vice president at
DaimlerChrysler, which has built the prototype vehicle known
as NECAR 4. "It's totally clean. Absolutely zero emissions
except water, which you can drink. And it leaves room for all
the passengers inside."
The car, based on the Mercedes-Benz A-class compact car sold
in Europe, seats five people, has a top speed of 90 mph and
travels 280 miles before needing refueling. And it is quiet.
The only sound is the compressor pushing air through the fuel
cells, which are stacked beneath the car's floorboard.
It's no sports car, though, accelerating from 0 to 35 miles per hour in six seconds. And it's heavy, weighing 3,800 pounds -- about the
weight of an average sports utility vehicle.
In the engine, fuel cells convert the liquid hydrogen and oxygen from the air into electricity and water
Environmentalists praised the new technology, saying it
heralds the demise of gasoline-powered cars.
"This fuel cell vehicle shows the days of the internal
combustion engine are numbered," said Dan Becker of the
Sierra Club. "We don't know how big that number is, but
they're definitely on their way out."
But not yet, countered Frank Markus of Car and Driver
"The internal combustion engine has gotten so clean and so
efficient and so powerful and all that it's pretty tough to
beat it right now," he said.
DaimlerChrysler hopes to reduce the car's weight, and
increase its pickup and speed by the time it releases the
NECAR X in the year 2004.
The NECAR X will likely run on methanol -- and be cheaper
than the current prototype, which costs more than $100,000.
Still, DaimlerChrysler calls the NECAR 4 a major breakthrough
because the fuel cell technology is small enough to fit into
a compact car.
"Now we are looking to make the technology affordable to
every consumer," said DaimlerChrysler chairman Robert Eaton.
Other companies are scrambling to match DaimlerChrysler's
production schedule. Ford, General Motors and Honda all say
they hope to market some type of fuel cell vehicle by 2004.
Correspondent Kathleen Koch contributed to this report.
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