Aug. 18 (Bloomberg) -- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder took delivery of a fuel cell-powered Mercedes A-Class vehicle, the F-Cell, from DaimlerChrysler AG for the Chancellery's car pool. The company plans to have 60 of the cars on the road around the world by the end of this year.
The four-door subcompact car's fuel-cell system is housed in the floor, leaving full use of the passenger and cargo spaces. It has a range of as much as 160 kilometers (99 miles) and a top speed of about 140 kilometers an hour (87 miles an hour), according to Stuttgart, Germany-based DaimlerChrysler, the world's fifth-biggest carmaker. An identical model will be handed over to California's South Coast Air Quality Management District.
``I just came back from a press conference at which the effect of oil prices played a major role,'' Schroeder told reporters at the handover in Berlin. ``This car shows that we are on the right track'' in view of the fact that global demand for mobility will increase, especially in China and India.
Fuel cells are being developed to replace gasoline engines as governments in the U.S., Europe and Asia toughen auto-exhaust pollution rules. The U.S. is offering $1.2 billion in tax breaks and grants to help carmakers develop and sell hydrogen-fueled vehicles by 2020 to reduce pollution and reliance on oil.
To speed up development, DaimlerChrysler and Ford Motor Co. on July 8 agreed to invest $100 million in Burnaby, British Columbia-based Ballard Power Systems Inc., the biggest maker of fuel cells for automobiles, and gain control of Ballard AG, a venture that designs systems to deliver the hydrogen fuel and power associated with a car.
DaimlerChrysler plans to have 60 cars powered by fuel cells by the end of this year in the U.S., Europe, Japan and Singapore. Fuel cells create electricity in a chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen, which powers electric motors to propel the car.
Berlin Test Drive
The Chancellery, which is leasing the vehicle, will use it for everyday driving to test its reliability in bumper-to-bumper traffic and under stop-and-go driving conditions.
After driving the car, which makes a humming sound, Schroeder said: ``It's very low-noise.'' Asked if he could imagine buying such a vehicle, he replied: ``I certainly can.''
Hydrogen may be a long-term alternative to petroleum, though the cost of making and distributing hydrogen and of fuel cells means a consumer market isn't likely to develop for at least a decade.
Schroeder earlier told a news conference that, while the rise in oil prices to record levels doesn't pose a risk to Germany's economic recovery, ``it wouldn't be problem-free for the world economy if the oil price were to remain at such a high level.''
Crude oil for September delivery rose as much as 29 cents to $47.04 a barrel today on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest intraday price since oil began trading in New York in 1983.
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Last Updated: August 18, 2004 08:45 EDT