Manufacturers are set to dramatically increase the number of fuel cell-powered test vehicles on public roads following the allocation of a R2,45 billion grant by the US Department of Energy.

Manufacturers are set to dramatically increase the number of fuel cell-powered test vehicles in public roads following the allocation of a R2,45 billion grant by the US Department of Energy.


The United States Secretary of Energy, Spencer Abraham, said the grant represent the first instalment of President George W Bush's R8,4-billion commitment to fuel cell research.


Manufacturers are creating test vehicle programmes and testing hydrogen fuelling and distribution systems. Chrysler, Ford and General Motors are seen as the leaders of the development drive.


Ford plans to assemble up to 30 hydrogen-powered Focus models and production will begin in the fourth quarter of 2004. Ballard Power Systems of Vancouver, British Columbia will supply the fuel cell stack, the electric power-generating portion of the fuel cell. In turn, BP plans to build fuel stations for the cars in Sacramento, Orlando and Detroit.


Toyota, Nissan, Honda, BMW and Hyundai are partners in the US-based projects.


Meanwhile, Delphi and Volvo are creating a hydrogen-powered auxiliary fuel cell unit for long-haul trucks to use while idling. Volvo Trucks North America is a partner in the effort.


The Energy Department is also funding research into hydrogen storage and fuel cell cost and durability.