DaimlerChrysler presented officials at Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) Friday, February 10th, with the keys to five hydrogen fuel-cell powered Mercedes-Benz F-Cell cars for use in the vehicle fleet at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to experiment with this zero-emission vehicle technology.

Los Angeles World Airports is a City of Los Angeles department that owns and operates four airports in Southern California: LAX, Ontario International, Palmdale Regional and Van Nuys.

While receiving the keys to the demonstration vehicles, LAWA alternative fuels fleet manager Dave Waldner, said:

“Los Angeles World Airports has been committed to alternative-fuel technology since 1993, when we introduced such technology into our airport operations.

“Hydrogen fuel-cell power is the next clean-fuel technology, and we are pleased to be in the forefront of its development.

“The addition of hydrogen-fuel cars into our fleet today and the establishment of a retail-designed fueling station at LAX in 2004 are concrete examples of our commitment to improving air quality.”

Based on a Mercedes-Benz, the F-Cell vehicle is designed with the entire fuel-cell system housed in the floor, leaving full use of the passenger and cargo spaces.

The car has a range of approximately 100 miles and a top speed of about 85 miles per hour.

The addition of five hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles makes LAX one of the largest test sites in the United States for fuel-cell vehicles and the only airport site, Waldner said.

After undergoing basic training in the operation and fueling of the cars, LAWA employees will use the cars for general transportation in the course of their duties in and around LAX and Southern California during the two-year term of the agreement with DaimlerChrysler.

LAX has one of the largest airport-based alternative-fuel vehicle fleets in the nation. Fifty-three percent of its airport vehicles are powered by alternative fuels, Waldner said.

Currently, more than 450 vehicles at LAX, Ontario International and Van Nuys Airports use compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, propane or are hybrid-electric power or solar power.

LAWA’s agreement with DaimlerChrysler calls for receiving the cars in exchange for providing operational and test data that could affect future designs of F-Cell vehicles and fueling stations.

LAX’s new F-Cell vehicles will refuel at a retail-designed hydrogen fueling station that opened at the airport in October 2004.

The station is a joint project funded by BP, Praxair, LAWA, South Coast Air Quality Management District, California Energy Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy, all of which helped fund the nearly $2 million construction cost.

Fuel cells release energy from the reaction of hydrogen with a catalyst and oxygen. This clean technology operates at a high level of efficiency and is “true zero-emission,” Waldner said.

Hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicles emit only pure water vapor as exhaust.