On a drizzly day in Washington last week, tourists lining up for a visit to the Capitol could catch a glimpse of something else they probably don’t see every day: a bunch of cars powered by fuel cells. Parked just outside the U.S. Botanic Garden, the three vehicles had company reps hovering nearby to pop the hood, answer questions and even take gawkers out for a spin.
The cars–from General Motors, DaimlerChrysler and Nissan Motor –were part of a technology showcase sponsored by the U.S. Fuel Cell Council, an industry group. Fuel cells, in case you’re wondering, are devices that use a chemical reaction, not combustion, to generate power. It’s basically the reverse of your grade-school electrolysis experiment–instead of separating hydrogen and oxygen with electricity, hydrogen and oxygen are combined in the fuel cell to produce electricity and water.
Up the Hill in the Cannon House office building, the U.S. Fuel Cell Council had also pulled together a mini trade convention for the benefit primarily of members of Congress and staff. In a large conference room, dozens more company reps–from the likes of General Electric, Delphi, and Ballard Power Systems –showed off their employers’ fuel cell wares.