A group of local scientists announced over the weekend in Shanghai that they have developed the city's first hydrogen-powered car, which they hope is a key step toward mass production of a pollution-free vehicle by the end of this decade.
The project is one of the country's 12 key scientific projects during the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-2005).
Executive Vice Mayor Jiang Yiren took the car -- called Chao Yue I -- for a test drive on the campus of Tongji University on Saturday.
"The car is very comfortable, and it is a promising technology. It will not only stimulate our manufacturing industry but also help protect the environment," Jiang said, of the automobile, which was built using the chassis of a Santana 2000.
Shanghai Fuel Cell Vehicle Power Train Co. -- which is led by Tongji University, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. and other various city departments -- spent one year and a 37.9-million-yuan (US$4.57 million) grant from the central government to develop the new hydrogen-based engine.
The government has offered an additional 80 million yuan (US$9.6 million) to help the company develop the technology through 2004.
Unlike traditional gasoline-powered vehicle, Chao Yue I runs on fuel cells, which mix hydrogen with oxygen to generate energy that is transformed into electricity.
Chao Yue -- which means "surpass" in Chinese -- can zip along at speeds up to 110 kilometers per hour, while producing water as its only emission.
Fuel-cell powered cars will be the most suitable for family use in the future because they don't poison the environment, said Sun Zechang, vice director of Clean Energy Automotive Engineering Center at Tongji University -- which is in charge of the project.
Researchers hope to begin mass production of hydrogen-powered cars in China within the next seven or eight years. While other countries are further along in developing the technology, none have begun mass production of such vehicles.
"We lag behind our western counterparts by around 20 years in terms of conventional auto-making, but only five years for hydro-powered vehicles," said Sun.
One task facing the team, Sun admits, is reducing the cost of producing the cars, although the vice director wouldn't say how much it would cost to produce a hydro-powered car like Choa Yue I today.
(Eastday.com January 13, 2003)