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Based on a Mercedes-Benz A-class compact car, NECAR 4 (New Electric Car) is 40 percent more powerful and has up to three times the range of a battery-powered vehicle. NECAR 4 reaches top speeds of 90 mph (compared to a top speed of 68 mph in its technological predecessor, NECAR 2) and can travel nearly 280 miles (450 km) before refuelling. In addition, the complete fuel cell system is for the first time mounted in the vehicle floor, allowing room for up to five passengers plus storage space.

The NECAR 4 is powered by liquid hydrogen stored in a cryogenic cylinder resembling a large thermos at the rear of the vehicle. The fuel is then processed by a Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC).

Inside the PEMFC, a platinum-coated membrane separates hydrogen into protons and electrons and combines them with oxygen in the air to form water. This surplus and deficit of electrons and protons creates positive and negative terminals that, when connected, produce electricity, which in turn, powers the vehicle.

DaimlerChrysler plans to have fuel cell vehicles in limited production by 2004. The company will invest more than $1.4 billion on fuel cell technology development by the time the first fuel cell vehicles come to market. That is about the same amount of money spent to introduce an entire line of profit-making vehicles, such as the Chrysler 300M, Chrysler Concorde, Chrysler LHS and Dodge Intrepid.

“With NECAR 4, we’ve already proven that fuel cell technology is viable,” said Bob Eaton, DaimlerChrysler chairman. “Now, we are working to make the technology affordable for every consumer.”

“We continue to look for ways to improve the performance of our vehicles on all levels,” added Jürgen Schrempp, DaimlerChrysler chairman. “We are investing in fuel cells, because we are committed to sustainable mobility and because we believe this investment will pay off. Fuel cells have the potential to be the most attractive alternative propulsion system for the long term.”

Since 1994 DaimlerChrysler has presented five different non-hybrid driveable fuel cell vehicles.

“Five years ago, you needed a large van to contain all the fuel cell hardware,” said Dr. Ferdinand Panik, head of DaimlerChrysler’s Fuel Cell Project. “Now, that’s simply no longer an issue. The significance of this technological advancement is comparable to the impact the microchip had on computer technology when it replaced the transistor.

“Fuel cells give you the range of conventional gasoline engines and the emission benefits of electrical vehicles, ” Panik added. “You have a quick refuelling process, unlike electric vehicles which need to be plugged in overnight. Yet, it has few moving parts like an electric vehicle and is quieter than a conventional car. ”

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