DaimlerChrysler will bring a fleet of clean, efficient, hydrogen-fuelled fuel cell cars to the United States beginning in 2003 as part of a worldwide test programme, said the company’s technology chief Bernard Robertson.

DC will also develop a second generation fuel cell vehicle running on sodium borohydride, a clean, nonflammable and recyclable fuel derived from borax, Robertson said.

Robertson, speaking at DaimlerChrysler’s North American Innovation Symposium in New York on Monday, said at the same time, the company will continue to explore innovative ways to enhance the efficiency, performance and emissions control of the internal combustion engine and related technologies, such as hybrid electric vehicles.

“The internal combustion engine will get even better; and we will have innovative technologies, such as cylinder deactivation, stop/start systems and hybrids, to draw even more benefits from this mainstay of personal transportation.

“At the same time, we will also begin the transition to the powertrains and fuels of the future.  Many of us in the automobile industry believe that includes fuel cell powertrains and hydrogen fuels.”

The benefits of these new powertrains and fuels could be enormous — reduced fuel consumption, zero or near-zero emissions and enhanced vehicle performance, utility and convenience, Robertson said.

However, the full potential of these new technologies will not be realised without improvements in the quality of the fuels used for personal transportation.  A critical element will be the availability of clean, low-sulphur fuels (sulphur significantly reduces the efficiency of emission control systems. Renewable fuel sources are also expected to play an increasing role).

“We will need to work together as an industry, as a transportation community and as a society to define our environmental and transportation goals and to develop and implement the advanced technologies that will enable us to achieve those goals,” Robertson said.