A group of Scientists from Tongju University and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. have developed China's first hydrogen-powered car, which they hope is a key step toward mass production of a pollution-free vehicle by the end of the decade.
From its appearance, the car, called Chao Yue I, is no different from an ordinary one. It is based on the chassis of a Santana 2000, and can reach a maximum speed of 110 kilometers per hour.
The real difference can be seen on the inside of the car. Without a gas engine, the car is equipped with an electromotor and a hydrogen tank.
Wan Gang, director of the project, says the car is quite special in several ways.
"The fuel of the car is not traditional gasoline, but hydrogen. With the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, electricity can be created to drive the car, while water is the only emission."
With this characteristic, director Wan says, the air quality in many cities can be greatly improved. A survey shows that around 60 percent of air pollution in cities is caused by car emissions.
And because of the electromotor the car carries, the vibrations and noise of the car can also be greatly reduced.
In addition, while driving, surplus electricity created in the chemical reaction can be collected and stored in the accumulator installed in the car.
Talking about the reasons for replacing the traditional petrol-powered engine, director Wan gives his answer.
"China's oil demands are increasing day by day. According to statistics, each year, about 40 percent of oil is used in transportation. So if we can find some alternative recycling energy, we can save that portion of resources, and also protect the environment."
But before the car becomes a standard feature of car showrooms, they still need to be worked on.
"We still need more time to test the reliability and stability of the car during different weather conditions and over different terrains, and to test its long-term performance. Plus, before mass producing the vehicle, we will try to reduce its cost to the consumer."
In the next step, director Wan says they expect to produce a hydrogen-powered car, which can experience various road conditions, in August this year. The first batch of these cars is expected to enter the market in 2005.
But the only disadvantage of the car in the future, director Wan predicts, is its price, which probably will be 20% higher than the same brand car equipped with a petrol-powered engine.