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Fuel Cells Could Replace Idling Big Rig Engines

April 30, 2001

What: UC Davis researchers and Freightliner Corporation demonstrate a truck fitted with fuel cells for auxiliary power. The fuel cells provide power for cab services such as air conditioning when the truck is parked, saving fuel costs and reducing pollution.

When: 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 2

Where: 49er Travel Plaza, I-80 and West El Camino Avenue, Sacramento

Visuals: The truck is a standard Freightliner tractor unit fitted with two fuel cells. The fuel cells power cab air conditioning and appliances when the truck is parked for breaks or overnight. Media will be able to film fuel cells and appliances in operation. Researchers will demonstrate the truck's facilities to interested truckers.

UC Davis engineering researcher Christie-Joy Brodrick and Freightliner director of research Bill Gouse will be available for interviews.

Background: When truck drivers stop for a break, they keep their diesel engines running to power heating and cab electronics and to prevent cold-start problems. These idling engines use as much as a gallon of fuel per hour, costing thousands of dollars in fuel and maintenance. They also generate noise and pollution.

Fuel cells, which generate electricity from clean fuels such as hydrogen, could replace these idling engines. Researchers from the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis are working with Freightliner Corporation to study the potential benefits of fuel cells as auxiliary power units in trucks. While vehicles powered entirely by fuel cells are some years away, auxiliary power units could be an early application of the technology.

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