The City of Los Angeles on Monday took delivery of the nation’s first certified fuel cell car, the Honda FCX. The car being leased by the city will be used in normal, everyday use and was delivered in a ceremony at City Hall including mayor Jim Hahn and Honda Motor president and CEO Hiroyuki Yoshino.

The hydrogen-powered FCX is the only fuel cell vehicle certified by The California Air Resources Board (CARB) and US EPA for every day commercial use. Under the two-year lease agreement, the City of LA will pay $US500 a month to lease the first of five Honda FCX models with the other four vehicles being delivered in 2003. In addition, Honda has contracted with Air Products and Chemicals, based in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with local operations in El Segundo, to provide the hydrogen fuel and refuelling infrastructure.

“This is a very exciting day for the City of Los Angeles as it takes a major, national leadership role in putting hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles into practical, everyday use,” Hahn said. “Los Angeles City employees will use these fuel cell vehicles on a day-to-day basis, just like any other pool vehicle.

“Hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles hold great promise for future clean air vehicles and it is important that LA play a leading role in assisting in the development and early use of this technology. Working with Honda Motor company, which has a long history of firsts in developing environmentally sound vehicles, adds to the great prospect for continued air quality improvements for the citizens of Los Angeles.”

Honda plans to lease about 30 fuel cell cars in California and Japan during the next two to three years. The company currently has no plans, however, for mass-market sales of fuel cell vehicles or sales to individuals.

Both CARB and the EPA have certified the FCX as a zero emission vehicle (ZEV). The FCX uses hydrogen supplied to a fuel cell ‘stack’ to generate electricity that powers its electric motor.

With an output of up to 80 horsepower and 201 foot-pounds of torque, acceleration is similar to a Honda Civic. Water vapour is the only exhaust. The FCX has an EPA certified range of 170 miles and seating for four people, making it practical for a wide range of real-world applications.

Honda undertook fuel cell research in 1989 and has been road testing vehicles in the United States since 1999. Honda has also been a member of the California Fuel Cell Partnership based in Sacramento, California, since 1999.