The mayor of Los Angeles has taken delivery of the first hydrogen powered car to be put into general use in the United States. The new car is pollution and noise free, and is fueled by the most abundant element in the universe.
Mayor James Hahn received the keys to the new Honda FCX outside city hall, under brilliant skies. "Blue skies that we want to keep blue," he said. "And today is a historical day for our city. The FCX fuel cell car has arrived here in Los Angeles. We're very excited that Los Angeles is the first city in the nation to enter this new era of transportation with our contract for these low pollution vehicles."
The city has signed a two year lease for five of the cars.
U.S. environmental officials have certified the Honda FCX as having zero emissions. It is fueled by hydrogen which, when mixed with oxygen, produces electricity to drive the motor. The only byproduct is water, and the car is nearly silent.
Fuel cell technology has been available for decades, and a prototype of the Honda fuel cell car has been undergoing tests for several years. This was the first vehicle delivered in the United States for commercial use, however.
Monday afternoon, Honda CEO Hiroyuki Yoshino drove the car a few meters from a busy Los Angeles street to the steps of city hall. Before flying to Los Angeles, the auto executive had delivered a fuel cell car to the prime minister of Japan. Thanks to the time difference, he was able to make both deliveries Monday.
The car he brought to Los Angeles will become part of the city's motor pool, used for official business by city employees. Mr. Yoshino says his company will lease 30 fuel cell cars in Japan and California, to see how they perform. "This is a real world vehicle, and we look forward with the city of Los Angeles and its employees to learn more about the FCX in real world driving conditions," said Mr. Yoshino.
The automaker Daimler-Chrysler has announced production of a fleet of Mercedes-Benzes powered by hydrogen fuel cells in the United States and Europe. Honda's FCX, however, was the first fuel cell car to be certified for use in the United States. Other auto companies, including Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Volkswagen, are planning their own models of hydrogen vehicles.
The challenge facing automakers and prospective buyers is a lack of infrastructure for refueling. However, hydrogen technology holds the promise of neighborhood fuel stations that produce hydrogen from water, with solar converters. Honda has built a solar powered fuel station in Los Angeles, and plans to provide its clients with mobile refueling facilities.
Honda officials say it will be another 10 years before a car like the FCX is available to the public. But within a few decades, they expect hydrogen fuel cell cars to be a common sight on U.S. highways.