IMAGE: FAMILY WITH LEASED FUEL CELL VEHICLE
Honda  /  Wieck
Jon and Sandy Spallino, and their two daughters, pose with their leased Honda fuel cell vehicle on Wednesday.
msnbc.com
updated 6/30/2005 7:20:39 AM ET 2005-06-30T11:20:39

Touting it as a "historic achievement in the evolution of the automobile," Honda on Wednesday announced the first lease of a fuel cell vehicle to individuals.

Jon and Sandy Spallino of Redondo Beach, Calif., "become the world's first fuel cell family, having signed an agreement to lease a 2005 Honda FCX for a period of two years," American Honda said in a statement.

"The Spallino's experience with the FCX will provide Honda engineers with real-world driving experience and feedback by an individual family, which will be invaluable as we design future models," John Mendel, American Honda's senior vice president for automotive operations said in the statement.

The Spallinos will use the two-door FCX for everyday use, including work commutes, shopping and trips to school for their two daughters. Honda said the family is paying $500 a month under the lease terms, a bargan for a test vehicle that probably cost several million dollars to produce.

Dozens of fuel cell vehicles are being test driven around the world, but either by carmakers themselves or public agencies. The longest-running test driver, Gregg Kelly , lives nearby but even his converted Toyota Highlander is part of a commuting partnership with his company.

Obstacles to widespread use remain, however, among them the high costs of building fuel cells and of obtaining hydrogen, which is used with air to create a chemical reaction that in turn creates electricity to power a vehicle.

Industry and governments have been spending billions on research and development in the hopes of replacing the internal combustion engine, and its pollutants, with fuel cells, whose only emission is water vapor.

Mendel said that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Hydrogen Highway" initiative, which aims to have dozens of filling stations in place by 2010, as instrumental.

"Without this initiative, we could not be taking the steps we are today," he said.

Honda said it would lease several more FCXs to individuals over the next year.

Jon Spallino, for his part, said he was ready to get started with his lease. "The FCX drives just like any other vehicle on the road, he said, "without the emissions."

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