Fleet News

Car makers step up pace in zero emission fuel race

THE race is on to develop a cost-effective mass production car running on fuel-cell technology following Mercedes-Benz' unveiling of its first zero emission fuel cell powered car, which is expected to go into production within the next five years. Fuelled by hydrogen the car is a result of research between Daimler-Benz and Vancouver-based Ballard Power Systems, and the manufacturer says that by 2004 it will have the capability to produce up to 100,000 of the fuel-cell cars each year.

Based on the A-class, Mercedes has committed £860 million to bring the vehicle into limited production. It says the cost is currently too high to make it realistic as a fleet purchase, but by 2004 the costs should be more competitive against diesel and petrol rivals. Capable of hitting 90mph and travelling 280 miles between fuel stops the 'Necar (new electric car) 4', banishes traditional problems with electric vehicles of poor range and performance.

But as Mercedes revealed the vehicle, BMW also announced the use of fuel-cells in its 7-series, saying it will have road-going hydrogen-powered saloons running by next year. These will also initially be too expensive to put into mass production, but the German manufacturer says it could have a model on the road ahead of the Mercedes 'Necar' deadline of 2004. BMW has been working with International Fuel Cells, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation, on the development of the fuel cell.

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