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Fourth Annual California Fuel Cell Partnership Road Rally Wraps Up

Information display used in GM HydroGen 3 fuel cell vehicle, based on the Opel Zafira platform

Jack Rosebro files a dispatch from the California Fuel Cell Partnership Road Rally:

Yesterday, the California Fuel Cell Partnership—a collaborative of auto manufacturers, energy companies, fuel cell technology companies, researchers, and government agencies—wrapped up its fourth annual Road Rally of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

The rally, which ran from Thursday through Saturday, featured vehicle displays in a number of cities, and more in-depth technology displays and public “ride-and-drive” access in Berkeley and San Francisco. The rally featured a half-day educational workshop on Thursday as well.

Chevrolet Silverado, with H2 fuel-cell powertrain, at Road Rally IV. Under test by the US Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) until July 2006.

Automakers participating with fuel cell vehicle prototypes included Ford, DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, and Toyota.

The workshop primarily addressed the planned expansion of California’s hydrogen refueling infrastructure—also known as the California Hydrogen Highway project—which is intended to provide public access to hydrogen fuel along every major highway in California by 2010. (Earlier post.)

Sixteen hydrogen-refueling stations are currently in operation in California, with next-phase plans for fifteen more, and a total of 250 stations statewide by 2015. There are 95 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are currently on California’s roads.

Hydrogen fueling stations in California

The workshop wrapped up with a session on hydrogen fuel cell vehicle safety, attended by local firefighters.

From a technical point of view, the most striking aspect of many vehicles on display was the production-level construction of the powertrains. Engineers from Honda and Toyota confirmed that a large part of their efforts are now concentrated on developing prototypes that could easily migrate to conventional assembly lines, as opposed to “one-off” examples. Another strong trend is away from out-sourced hydrogen technology components—such as fuel cell stacks and hydrogen tanks—in favor of components that have been designed and produced by the vehicle manufacturer.

One roadblock to commercial hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle sales is the lack of a standard for hydrogen fuel purity, which directly affects fuel-cell stack life. A spokesman for DaimlerChrysler stated that many fuel cell engineers are hoping for, in his words, a standard of “six nines”, or 99.9999% fuel purity—much cleaner than almost all commercially available hydrogen today. The U.S. Department of Energy hopes to settle on a hydrogen standard for fuel cell vehicles by 2015.

Japan’s MITI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) facilitates the Japan Hydrogen Fuel Cell Demonstration Project (JHFC) which is a government-sponsored collaborative similar to the California Fuel Cell Partnership. According to the JHFC, twelve hydrogen-refueling stations are now up and running in Japan.

—Jack Rosebro



Hydrogen and/or fuel cells will never become a valid power source for automotive transportation.

Sure are a lot of people pissing into the wind.

James White

I wouldn't say never. Never is a very long time. But I agree with Lucas's basic assertion regarding hydrogen-only fuel cells. I would not rule out other fuel cells such as direct-methanol. The huge amount of money being spent on establishing the "hydrogen economy" would be better spent on the development of plug in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and improved battery technology to go with them. The best use of hydrogen is in a closed loop fuel cell, otherwise called a nickle metal hydride battery.


Who says a fuel cell car cant also be a plug in car? Its already fully electric and it likely will have a battery pack of some capacity specialy considering how long it takes a fuel cell to get fully going.

Frankly as long as I had a solar or wind farm id rather it generate hydrogen when it wasnt powering my house so that later I could vroom vroom on wind/solar power alone


Hydrogen technology is great--for the long term, so I say keep it up! It's going to take a long time to work out all of the kinks.

PHEV doesn't impress me, simply because battery technology is so far behind. Fischer-Trope conversion of waste biomass seems to make more sense to me.

Then again, everyone here seems to have their own "sure-fire" way of saving the world. Funny how it made it this far without us. ;)


Sorry, that's "Fischer-Tropsch".


The problem with direct-methanol is what do you do with all that waste junk that quickly piles up.

The only fuel-cells that seem to have a chance are large, stationary ones.

You can play around with fuel cells until small, portable fusion comes on line and you still won't be able to make it a viable technology for automobiles.


Think zinck.

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