The city of Los Angeles will be the first US retail customer for a fuel cell car.

City employees are beginning a familiarisation program with prototype versions of the Honda FCX and five production vehicles will be delivered before the end of 2002.

“Air quality in the Los Angeles basin has steadily improved in recent years, thanks in part to the deployment of new environmental technologies,” LA mayor Jim Hahn said.

“Hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles hold great promise for future clean air vehicles and it’s important that Los Angeles play a leading role in development and early use of this technology.”

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the US EPA recently certified the FCX as the world’s first fuel cell vehicle for public road use, classifying it as a zero emission vehicle (ZEV).

The FCX uses hydrogen supplied to a fuel cell ‘stack’ to generate electricity and power and electric motordelivering 80 horsepower and 201 foot-pounds of torque for acceleration similar to a Civic.

The FCX has a range of up to 220 miles and seating for four people and city employees will use the vehicles as regular pool cars and for commuting.
LA and Honda are finalising hydrogen refueling plans.

Honda plans to lease about 30 fuel cell cars in California and Japan during the next two to three years but does not plan mass-market sales of fuel cell vehicles or sales to individuals.