Toyota delivers first fuel-cell car in US to UC Davis

December 04, 2002

The UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies took delivery today from Toyota Motor Sales USA of the first market-ready fuel-cell vehicle in the United States.

The UC Davis research institute will use this car, and more to arrive soon, to conduct the first public evaluation of American consumer reactions to the new automotive technology.

For the past five years, Toyota has provided more than $2 million in research grants to the University of California for advanced fuel-cell development study. In the new program, UC Davis and its sister campus at Irvine will share six Toyota fuel-cell vehicles and grants from Toyota of more than $4 million over the next 3.5 years.

Cars powered by fuel cells have zero tailpipe emissions and greatly reduce greenhouse gases compared with existing internal-combustion engines using gasoline or diesel. They are considerably cleaner and more energy-efficient than the new gasoline-electric hybrid cars now on the market and provide the potential to move toward renewable domestic energy sources.

Toyota has asked the University of California to help the automaker establish a fuel-cell-vehicle "community" in the state. The community would link academic researchers, consumers, manufacturers and public agencies.

The Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis (ITS- Davis) will use its fuel-cell Toyotas to study:

* Consumer awareness and knowledge of, and attitudes toward, hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles;
* The use of hydrogen fueling infrastructure;
* The full "lifecycle cost" of FCVs;
* Other aspects of FCVs and hydrogen use that will point the way for the advent of this new class of ultra-clean vehicles.

Ken Kurani, ITS-Davis director of fuel-cell market research, will lead efforts to identify the most promising early markets for fuel-cell vehicles; lead outreach efforts to educate communities about hydrogen and fuel-cell vehicles, and recommend designs for consumer-friendly hydrogen refueling stations.

Said ITS-Davis director Daniel Sperling, an international authority on alternative fuels in transportation: "This program builds on over a decade of research at ITS-Davis on alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles.

"Our goals at ITS-Davis are to help government and industry develop clean, safe, efficient ways for Californians to travel. Our new research program with Toyota will complement and enhance our existing studies of fuel-cell technology in personal vehicles, transit buses and big-rig trucks."

The consumer, market and demonstration program elements will be designed by ITS-Davis researchers Ken Kurani and Tom Turrentine. Marshall Miller, who directs the ITS-Davis hydrogen-CNG bus research program, will oversee the hydrogen- fueling infrastructure issues.

A new hydrogen fueling station -- one of only a handful on the West Coast -- is now being constructed at UC Davis for its existing studies of fuel-cell buses. With the Toyota partnership, ITS-Davis will enhance that station to accommodate passenger-vehicle refueling as well.

The UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies is one of the world's leading university programs on travel behavior, advanced vehicle technology, and environmental impacts of transportation. The primary mission of the Institute is research -- cross-disciplinary inquiries into emerging transportation issues with great societal significance.

ITS-Davis has 40 affiliated faculty members, 70 graduate students and an $8 million budget. About 15 academic and research faculty affiliated with ITS-Davis conduct research in the area of fuel-cell vehicles and the use of hydrogen as a transportation fuel.

In 1998, the U.S. Department of Energy established one of its two university-based fuel-cell vehicle centers at ITS-Davis.

In October, ITS-Davis launched a new four-year, $5 million program called "Transportation and the Hydrogen Economy: Pathways and Strategies." It is a partnership with leading research centers, government agencies, and major companies from around the world. Funding is being provided by a consortia of those companies -- including Toyota -- and government agencies.

That program's primary focus will be the manufacture, storage and distribution of hydrogen for use in fuel-cell vehicles. "We're setting our sights on the near and medium term, because overcoming these more immediate challenges will be critical to laying the foundation for a successful hydrogen- based economy of the future," Sperling said.

One of the first projects of the new Pathways and Strategies initiative is a study of hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Funded by the California Energy Commission and other partners, ITS-Davis researchers Marshall Miller and Andrew Burke will develop a design for a first-generation hydrogen fueling station. They will predict the hydrogen transportation fuel demand over several decades, study hydrogen production sources, and estimate hydrogen fuel costs.

University of California - Davis

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