June 5, 2002

First fuel cell car crosses continent

Washington, D.C. – DaimlerChrysler’s NECAR 5 fuel-cell car, a version of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class car, completed its 5000 km journey across the U.S.A. on Tuesday. The trek began in San Francisco, California, on May 20th, and ended in Washington, D.C. at the foot of the U.S. Capitol.

The NECAR 5 uses a fuel cell produced by Ballard Power Systems of Burnaby, British Columbia, and an on-board reformer to extract hydrogen from liquid methanol. The methanol was delivered in advance to refuelling points along the route, allowing for refilling every 500 kilometres.

Known as “wood alcohol,” methanol is a simple, hydrogen-rich fuel. While most of the 13 billion gallons of methanol produced globally each year are made from natural gas, methanol can be produced from a host of renewable resources such as landfill methane gas, wood waste and dedicated biomass crops. Currently, there is enough excess methanol production to fuel 10 million fuel cell vehicles annually.

The Methanex Corporation estimates that the existing gasoline infrastructure could be easily modified to dispense methanol, and the total cost to add a methanol pump to one-in-four service stations in the United States is equal to what Americans pay at the pump for gasoline in just five days. The company also estimates that at the retail level, methanol can be priced competitively with gasoline.

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