WASHINGTON—DaimlerChrysler A.G. has developed a five-passenger, fuel-cell-powered, zero-emission vehicle called NECAR 4, which the company said will lead the way in commercializing fuel cell vehicle technology. ``With NECAR 4, we've already proven that fuel cell technology is viable,'' said DaimlerChrysler Chairman Robert J. Eaton at the vehicle's unveiling in Washington March 17. ``Now, we are working to make the technology affordable for every consumer.''
Juergen Schrempp, co-chairman of DaimlerChrysler with Mr. Eaton, accompanied him at the unveiling. So did Carol M. Browner, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator, who called the new vehicle ``a real step forward'' in pollution reduction.
The NECAR 4 is based on a Mercedes-Benz A-class compact car. It converts hydrogen and oxygen into electricity and water vapor and can run 280 miles without refueling with a top speed of 90 mph. By comparison, the NECAR 2, DaimlerChrysler's predecessor to the current vehicle, had a top speed of only 68 mph.
According to the automaker, the NECAR 4 has 40 percent more power than previous automotive fuel cells and up to three times the driving range of a battery-powered vehicle.
DaimlerChrysler said by 2004, when it plans to have fuel cell vehicles in limited production, it will have invested more than $1.4 billion in fuel cell technology.
The NECAR 4's debut succeeded in ratcheting up the race among automakers to develop environmentally friendly cars.
According to the Associated Press, Ford Motor Co. officials said they expect to have a driveable version of their five-seat fuel-cell car, the P2000, sometime this spring.
In early January, Ford released details about the car, calling it an "ultra energy-efficient, true zero-emission vehicle." Ford said the "fuel cell P2000 is designed to achieve the performance of today's Ford Taurus, which goes from 0 to 60 mph in 12 seconds," with the fuel cell stack and electric drivetrain targeted to achieve the equivalent of 90 horsepower.