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Tour fuels interest in hydrogen vehicles
[August 16, 2008]

Tour fuels interest in hydrogen vehicles

(Herald-Sun, The (Durham, NC) (KRT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 16--DURHAM -- Several area residents oohed and ahhed at a collection of unique cars Friday afternoon.

The National Hydrogen Road Tour stopped by Duke University Friday to refuel and show off its hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Various makes of vehicles, including BMW, Nissan, Volkswagen, Mercedes, Toyota and Hyundai, were on display for people to look under the hood, kick the tires, ask questions and go for a ride.

Put simply, the hydrogen vehicles run off the combination of hydrogen and water.

"Hydrogen stored on board the vehicle combining with oxygen from outside to produce water, that process produces electricity which is used to drive the vehicle," said Brian Johnston, Nissan senior project engineer for electric and fuel cell vehicles.

The cars are nearly silent when running, with the running air conditioner being the loudest part of the car.

The Nissan model, for example, gets about 50 miles per equivalent gallon of gasoline and has no transmission, so there is no lurching while accelerating.

The cars, though clean and efficient, have a long way to go before hitting the market. The Nissan model has a 120 horsepower electric motor and goes from zero to 60 in 14 seconds. The vehicles, though they aren't for sale, cost about $1 million.

Johnston said the price will definitely need to drop by the time they hit the market, which he anticipates will be in 2015.

"It doesn't do us any good to develop a model that very few people can afford," he said.

Spring Davis, of Durham, hopes by the time she needs to replace her car, hydrogen cars will be on the market.

"My next car will be sustainable. We all have to do that, it's our responsibility to not spew carbons into the air," she said.

Barry Wilson of Chapel Hill agreed.

"Hopefully they'll be on the road in a few years. I'd like to see it happen sooner," he said. "They look like they'd be just like any other car to drive."

Jimmy Dorff of Morrisville said he hopes the interest in efficient vehicles isn't temporary.

"No one cares when oil is $10 a barrel. Everyone is interested when oil is $100 a barrel," he said.

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