Last Friday, we ended our official work week at the Department of Transportation with five very special visitors: an FC-EV, an FCX Clarity, a Borrego, a B-Class, and an FCHV-adv.
Why are these five cars with initials for names so special? They're the latest hydrogen fuel cell vehicles from GM, Honda, Kia, Mercedes, and Toyota. Fuel cell vehicles are zero-emissions vehicles that run on electricity from hydrogen and oxygen. And they represent an exciting new automotive technology that promises to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and lower our greenhouse gas emissions.
Hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles are already on American roads, and they are very close to being widely sold in the United States.
Thanks to the California Fuel Cell Partnership, this technology has progressed dramatically in the last few years. The members of this public-private partnership know that reaching California’s tough goals for cleaner air and reduced greenhouse gases requires full-function cars, pickups, and SUVs that people want to drive. And DOT is proud to represent the federal government in this important collaboration.
Most importantly, not only do fuel cell vehicles feel and perform like the vehicles we're all used to; they are also just as safe. The fuel tank protection technology has been tested, tested again, and retested. And because hundreds of fuel cell vehicles have already been driving on our roads for years, we have crash data available. And that data tells us the new technology presents no additional safety challenges.
For those concerned about pedestrians and bicyclists not hearing too-quiet electric vehicles, some of the cars that visited DOT were equipped with a pleasant chime sound that rang at low speeds and when reversing. This alerts blind pedestrians and others that the vehicle is approaching.
In California, the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District operates the nation's largest fleet of hydrogen-powered transit buses with 12. Each bus is powered by a system built by UTC Power of Connecticut, and uses an advanced energy storage system by Enerdel of Indiana. Every day, these buses carry thousands of passengers and displace tons of CO2 that would be generated by a conventional diesel bus.
One of the steepest obstacles we face in pursuing this technology is the need to build hydrogen refueling stations. It's difficult to imagine that we once had the same problem with a shortage of gas stations when the automobile's popularity first took off in the early 20th century.
But DOT is supporting efforts to work through this. For example, through the FTA's TIGGER program, we're helping the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District develop its newest refueling station. This one will be able to refuel the transit agency's buses, and will also have a public-facing side where motorists can refuel their hydrogen-powered vehicles. And the new station will manufacture its hydrogen using solar power. Other stations are already using this approach, including a public Shell station in Los Angeles.
So, when this technology hits the market we're talking about a zero-emissions car powered by a fuel created with zero emissions. That's American innovation at work for all of us.