My F-CELL – just like a regular car

My name is Bill Holloway. My wife (Patty) and I live in Alameda which is located on an island near San Francisco in California, USA. When my friends and co-workers found out what kind of car I leased they all asked the same question. Why, they wondered, with a 150 round trip commute that includes a 1000 ft elevation change both ways did you pick a car that can only be serviced in San Francisco, essentially has a 100 mile leash, and can only be filled at one location that is not even in Alameda? I do have to either get up 30 minutes earlier or get home 30 minutes later in order to fill the car. Sometimes I wonder as well. My motives to lease were fairly straightforward.

My 05 C230 hatchback has 190K miles, I wanted a change in transportation, and have an interest in alternatives to the internal combustion engine (no flying cars yet). My job constantly exposes me to energy efficiency and Green House Gas discussions as I have been in the energy efficiency group at Pacific Gas & Electric since 1984. In 2006, PG&E had 3 of the research project F-CELL A190 LWB hydrogen cars on test. Fairly slow, with a complex start procedure, and good for only maybe 100 miles before needing a refill, they were still a technically interesting ride.

When you said you were driving a million dollar car, the expressions were always entertaining. I liked the A190 so much that I didn’t bother with a test drive of the F-CELL before signing the papers. The last justification to lease is, admittedly, bragging rights. Tesla builds their model S just down the freeway making them fairly common. The F-CELL is literally almost one of a kind locally. I have never seen one on the road.

There are some adjustments I have noticed which are needed when driving the F-CELL. You need to go a bit slower to keep up the range, and the regenerating brake effect is useful in stop and go traffic. That’s about it. Family and friends were surprised how easy it is to start and drive, just like a regular car.

So smooth, it is very easy to modulate speed in city driving. I am becoming spoiled with the instant low speed torque. There is no drama, no kick-down delay, no having to shift as we squirt through openings in traffic. Now, when driving our other cars, a five speed stick and a five speed auto, they feel far less, well, capable. Then there is the stealth factor, law enforcement cannot hear you punch it to make the light or dive into that gap in traffic.

Pros: averaging 57 miles/kg. Or about twice the mileage of my C with the 1.8L supercharged engine. Quiet interior is nice around town. H2 light in instrument cluster (though not sure what it indicates). Smiles and waves from strangers, thumbs-up from Tesla drivers. A Leaf driver wanting to race was a definite Pro. Fun to toss around too. Fillup time is about the same as my other car.

Cons: people don’t hear you backing up, lame cupholders (I think the 2013 version fixed this), and lack of refill locations of course. And I wish there was a way to show interested people some of the mechanicals!

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