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AutomobileMay 19, 2003
Honda FCX California Fuel Cell Partnership Rally Thru The Valley - Daily Web Log

TORRANCE, Calif, U.S.A., May 19, 2003 –
Honda FCX
California Fuel Cell Partnership Rally Thru The Valley
5/14/03 to 5/16/03
Daily Web Log

Day 3 - 5/16/03 - Bakersfield to Los Angeles

Crossing mountain passes has been an arduous task throughout history, presenting challenges of terrain, climatic change, and the unknown appearing over each new hilltop. Many a horse has died and a mule train stalled climbing the next ridge.

The Honda FCX team and its California Fuel Cell Partnership allies today pitted the latest automotive technologies against one of Southern California's most notorious highway passes - "The Grapevine."

This steep grade along Interstate 5 is a long-distance trucker's nightmare, a wide ribbon of asphalt that leads up the Tejon Pass out of the San Joaquin Valley over the mountains that rim the southern flank of the valley into the sprawling Los Angeles basin. High winds, dust storms and sudden weather changes are regular occurrences. Breakdowns are common.

Transit through this pass is as unpredictable as the weather. Today was no different. Still, the Honda FCX breezed up the grade at freeway speeds (and even beyond when the California Highway Patrol escort allowed) without so much as a hiccup.

The immediate reward was a refreshing stop next to Lake Castaic, where the partnership's participating fuel cell vehicles topped off their hydrogen fuel, a quick and easy process.

Then it was on to the first of two stops in the Los Angeles area. Waiting for the fuel cell parade at the Los Angeles Zoo parking lot was LA Deputy Mayor Brian Williams, who drove to the event in one of the city's leased Honda FCXs.

Today was an unofficial day of mourning in the city due to the abrupt termination last night of the Lakers' three-year reign as NBA champions. Williams made reference to the somber observance while happily welcoming the Fuel Cell Partnership crews to his city.

KABC-TV reporter and auto enthusiast Dave Kunz was one of the first to take the FCX on the driving course set up at the Griffith Park parade, which also featured a children's play and a public ride-and-drive.

Today was a typically smoggy day in LA, featuring the kind of haze that makes this city famous around the world. This air quality backdrop underscored the need for reduced auto emissions in an area where the nearby hills are often only faintly visible.

The three-day rally ended at an appropriate spot - the Petersen Automotive Museum, a place known for celebrating the history of the automobile and the culture that has grown up around it. Today, something new was celebrated: the fuel cell vehicle.

Five fuel cell vehicles were on display while the Partnership teams celebrated the successful demonstration of this promising technology. Each had completed the 400-mile trek down the San Joaquin Valley, over the Grapevine and into LA. Each has the next challenge to look forward to.

Honda's FCX completed the trip without missing a beat. Team manager Shiro Matsuo congratulated his fellow team members who participated and all those behind the scenes who helped the FCX illustrate the "state of the art" from Sacramento to Los Angeles.

Honda FCX
California Fuel Cell Partnership Rally Thru The Valley
5/14/03 to 5/16/03
Daily Web Log

Day 2 - 5/15/03 - Fresno to Bakersfield

The Honda FCX team went from California's "breadbasket" of Tulare County - with its 350 different crops - to the heart of the state's traditional energy industry in Bakersfield.

At the latter stop, energy history got an update. An old wooden oil pump provided the backdrop for a display of fuel cell vehicles at the day's main stop for the second day of the California Fuel Cell Partnership's "Rally Thru the Valley."

Kern County Supervisor Barbara Patrick, who also is a member of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), slid into the driver's seat of the FCX in Bakersfield. Part of her duties at CARB include helping decide the future of zero emission vehicles like the FCX, and this was the first opportunity she had to actually drive a fuel cell vehicle.

Lighter highlights of the day included a break for an informal juggling competition at a refueling stop in Tulare's International Agri-Center. Jugglers used the Partnership's squeeze globes as throw props. Later, with a California Highway Patrol escort leading the way, the FCX was able to legally exceed the speed limit on southbound Highway 99.

When the FCX team reached Bakersfield, it was warmly greeted by Mayor Harvey Hall and Barbara Patrick, along with dozens of school kids and adult fuel cell enthusiasts.

At the quaint Kern County Museum in Bakersfield, where the entire fuel cell entourage arrived at about noon, children exhausted their vocabulary of superlatives in exchange for rides in the FCX.

In early evening, the Honda FCX and other fuel cell vehicles were the center of attention for thousands at the bustling Street Faire in downtown Bakersfield.

Media continue to be drawn to the FCX. Steve Fujimoto, photographer with the Visalia Times-Delta, aimed his lens at the Honda as it left Tulare. Honda team member Shiro Matsuo answered questions from reporter Matt Weiser of the Bakersfield Californian prior to his driving the FCX.

Incidentally, two PZEV (Partial Zero Emission Vehicle) Accords from the local fleet of Chevron Texaco were on display.

The Accords are a showcase of Honda's ongoing commitment to reducing current vehicle emissions while at the same time demonstrating future alternative fuel technologies like the FCX.


Honda FCX
California Fuel Cell Partnership Rally Thru The Valley
5/14/03 to 5/16/03
Daily Web Log

Day 1 - 5/14/03 - Sacramento to Fresno

The Honda fuel cell team rolled down the highway today in the center of what many people call "America's Salad Bowl" because of the agricultural significance of the region. For the next few days - from Sacramento to Fresno to Bakersfield and, finally, Los Angeles - the multinational Honda team is taking the story of the Honda FCX through four of the 10 smoggiest urban areas in the United States - Fresno, Bakersfield, Visalia and Los Angeles. Honda Team members lead five other fuel cell vehicles south along some 200 miles of Highway 99 on the first day of the three-day run.

In the days of the Old West, as depicted in "The Big Valley," this trek would have been long, hot and dusty, with occasional road hazards such as a slipped horseshoe, a trail washout, or a holdup at gunpoint.

Along the way on Day 1, top national journalists, state political leaders, government officials - legislators, mayors, city council members - and the public got a chance to experience the Honda vehicle's state-of-the-art zero emission driving.

Carl Hall of the San Francisco Chronicle got the first chance to ride in the FCX, making the 20-minute trip from the California Fuel Cell Partnership's West Sacramento headquarters to the State Capitol.

Mark Vaughn, from the national weekly auto enthusiast magazine AutoWeek, jumped in and took a ride from the capitol down the highway to Stockton, then, later, drove the leg from Merced to Fresno City Hall.

Matt Nauman, auto editor of San Jose Mercury News, drove Honda's FCX for his first time from Stockton to Merced, with Dr. Alan Lloyd, chairman of the California Fuel Cell Partnership and the Air Resources Board, as his co-pilot in the front passenger seat.

Everyone who piloted the FCX noted its technology advancements: a quiet ride, long range (up to 220 miles), and the unique Honda Ultra Capacitor, which stores electric energy and releases it much more efficiently than a normal battery for quick bursts of acceleration when needed.

The day was filled with not only journalists driving the FCX. It also featured proclamations, speeches, fanfare, and plenty of time for the public to get up close and personal with vehicles that have never been seen in much of the Central Valley.

Members of the public eagerly lined up at scenic Roeding Park in Fresno for the opportunity to ride in the FCX and other fuel cell vehicles _ and to eat hot dogs, 325 of them, in fact.

Even at stops where the public was not allowed to ride along, elementary school children, senior citizens and others pored over the vehicles and devoured all of the information the FCX team could offer.

All in all, Day 1 of the Rally thru the Valley was, literally, an opportunity for residents of the Big Valley to experience the future of the automobile, much the same way their predecessors a century ago experienced the valley's long and dusty trails on their new horseless carriages.
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