The council paid £33,000 for the Coval, built with an electric motor in the US and fitted with a fuel cell by specialist firm Zero Emission Fuel Company (ZEVCO), which was behind the world's first fuel cell taxi. It is now working on a fuel cell vehicle based on an Iveco. Westminster says it is the first organisation in the world to purchase a vehicle of this type, rather than lease it. A further £14,000 was provided by the Government-funded Powershift programme to fund refuelling facilities from Shell and Air Products.
The Coval, which weighs 1.7 tonnes, has a maximum speed of 62mph and covers 0-31mph in 15 seconds, has a 200 mile range and costs 7p per mile in fuel. It will join a fleet of 11 liquefied petroleum gas powered vehicles and be used in council parks. The council is already planning the purchase of one more fuel cell vehicle.
Melvyn Caplan, leader of Westminster City Council, used the launch in London to savage Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's proposals to cut traffic in the Transport Bill. He claimed that councils had to lead by example instead of taxing businesses off the roads and said Westminster was showing what could be achieved. 'No-one will buy these vehicles unless they work and we are showing they are,' he said. 'Just taxing people is a system that is doomed to failure.'