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Las Vegas a Testing Ground for Alt Fuels, Hydrogen Vehicles

November 16, 2006

The City of Las Vegas owns 1,500 vehicles, and 87 percent of them—from passenger cars to front-end loaders—now use some type of alternative fuel, according to the Las Vegas Sun. Dan Hyde, the city's transportation manager, has spearheaded a nationally recognized program that transformed the city's gasoline-powered vehicles into a fleet that runs on hydrogen, vegetable oil and other alternative fuels with the goal of reducing pollution and dependence on foreign oil as the population grows in Clark County. Hyde points out that by allowing auto manufacturers to test new technology in the city’s fleet, they see how alternative-fuel vehicles perform in actual highway and city driving. The ultimate goal, Hyde said, is to demonstrate that alternative fuels are practical for everyday use and affordable for the general public. The city's fleet includes two Honda FCXs that cost more than $1 million each, the Las Vegas Sun reports. They are among only a handful of hydrogen-fueled cars being tested by the company in practical application. The cars fill up at a hydrogen fueling station, the first of its kind when it was built in 2002. Under normal circumstances, the city could not justify the cars' cost or the fueling station's $11 million price tag. Honda, however, leases the two vehicles to the city for about $14,000 per year, and the federal government and private investors paid for the fueling station. While the Honda's $1 million cost makes it impractical for wide usage, Hyde points out that five years ago, hydrogen cars cost about $5 million. With increased production, the cars could eventually get down to about $50,000, which might make them a feasible option for some environmentally conscious drivers. The city would like to develop a regional connecting corridor for hydrogen refueling with Arizona, California and New Mexico, but that idea is at least a few years away from becoming reality.
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