Six ‘Green’ Mercs Heading Here for Test

Singapore will soon host six of 60 environmentally friendly Mercedes-Benz cars built by DaimlerChrysler. The cars, which run on fuel cells powered by hydrogen, will be tested by a number of different firms, including BP Singapore, Michelin, and Lufthansa. Once complete, the tests will help to develop future models. While the estimated price of each vehicle – some say close to $1.8 million – prohibits widespread use, the benefits are clear: water is the only substance the car emits. Test cars will also be shipped to Sacramento, Tokyo, Berlin and Stuttgart. The diverse members and locations of the test suggest a global effort by DaimlerChrysler to realize "greener" cars. Still, the cars' hydrogen fuel is derived from natural gas, not the most sustainable fuel source. – YaleGlobal

Six 'Green' Mercs Heading Here for Test

Five parties agree to test hydrogen-powered cars, which will be shipped here from May; refuelling at BP station in Upper East Coast
Christopher Tan
Thursday, March 4, 2004

FIVE parties have agreed to be part of a multi-million-dollar programme to test a fleet of Mercedes-Benzes here that run on hydrogen-generated electricity.

They are the National Environment Agency (NEA), oil company BP Singapore, Conrad Centennial Singapore hotel, tyre-maker Michelin and airline company Lufthansa.

Car company DaimlerChrysler, which is producing 60 of the environmentally-friendly fuel cell vehicles, will ship six here from May in a two-year Government-supported scheme to test-bed new technologies.

The other 54 will be sent to Sacramento, Tokyo, Berlin and Stuttgart for similar trials.

Each of the five Singapore partners will take delivery of one car. DaimlerChrysler's regional headquarters here will have the sixth.

The A-class Mercs are the world's first production fuel cell cars. The fuel is hydrogen, which undergoes an electrochemical reaction with oxygen in the air to produce electricity in a fuel cell stack to drive an electric motor.

The only thing that comes out of the tailpipe is water.

The 'green' cars will refuel at a BP station in Upper East Coast Road.

The pump can store 70kg of hydrogen, enough to fill up one of the fuel cell vehicles 35 times. The hydrogen will be produced on Jurong Island, using natural gas.

During the trial period, the vehicles' consumption, performance and reliability will be collated. The data will be used in the development of future models.

DaimlerChrysler South-east Asia chief executive Frank Messer said that the experience gained from the trial is 'very important in resolving any outstanding issues regarding this technology'.

'This is especially so, when all our partners are from different walks of life,' he said.

All the various partners have their own reasons for supporting the programme. Michelin, for instance, spends an undisclosed amount on its annual Challenge Bibendum, a 'race' between cars with new technologies and environmental standards.

Lufthansa sees its involvement as part of its innovative spirit. Its regional director, Mr Arved von zur Muehlen, pointed out that the airline was the first to introduce onboard access to the Internet.

He added: 'The airline has been able to reduce its fuel consumption by 27 per cent since 1991 to 4.5 litres per passenger per 100km. Our newest aircraft, the Airbus A340-600, actually uses only 3.6 litres.'

The NEA, which has had limited success in promoting environmentally-correct vehicles here, said the fuel cell Merc is a welcome addition to Singapore's small fleet of petrol-electric hybrids, electric, and natural gas-powered vehicles.

The agency has a Volvo which runs on gas and petrol.

Its director-general of environmental protection, Mr Loh Ah Tuan, noted that despite current tax breaks, 'green' cars are still too costly. The NEA will continue to push for more incentives. 'We've not given up,' he said.

Each fuel cell A-class Merc is said to cost $1.8 million, although DaimlerChrysler would not confirm this, saying the car is not for sale.

The company has spent more than a billion euros (S$2.07 billion) on fuel cell development. It unveiled its first fuel cell vehicle in 1994, and by the end of this year will have more than 100 of them, mostly buses, on the road.

Copyright @ 2004 Singapore Press Holdings.