Last week I had talked about the upcoming National Hydrogen Association (NHA) Hydrogen Conference and Expo that is going on this week. I grabbed my media pass (which it turns out was unnecessary since it was Public Day) and ran down to check out some of the hydrogen fueled cars that I had never driven before.
I lined up to specifically drive the Honda Clarity, Mercedes B-Class F-Cell and Mazda RX-8 RE. I don’t want to give a lengthy review of each of these vehicles since I’ve already done so on other pages. I just want to tell you just a tidbit of information about each vehicle that was a surprise to me after having driven the car.
The Honda FCX Clarity was fast, smooth, quiet and lived up to all of its hype. It was one of the Ride ‘N’ Drive favorites among the crowd. But, what surprised me was that the shifter paddle for the vehicle was up near the steering wheel (circled in picture) along with the Park button just below it. The shifter took a little getting used to with Reverse on top, Neutral in the middle and Drive at the bottom and some slight jostling to get it into gear. But after a couple of tries it was a piece of cake.
The second vehicle I drove, the Mercedes B-Class F-Cell (another show favorite – in fact all three cars I drove were show favorites) was a little different from both the A-Class which I had driven several years before and the other vehicles at the show. For instance, when I stepped on the pedal it wasn’t as peppy as either the Honda Clarity or the Mazda RX-8 RE. What really surprised me, though, was how extremely quiet this vehicle was. I didn’t even know it was turned on when I sat down to drive it.
Another surprise is that the engineer who rode alongside of me told me that when the Mercedes B-Class F-Cell (which is now in limited production) does rollout in the U. S. later this year, it will not only be leased in the Los Angeles area, but in San Francisco and possibly New York as well. San Francisco doesn’t have as many hydrogen fueling stations as the Los Angeles area so this was something I hadn’t known about. Also, the engineer said he believed that three of the production lease vehicles had already rolled out in Germany which was also news to me.
The Mazda RX8 RE seemed like the most popular car at the Ride ‘N’ Drive at least when I arrived. Many people were passing over the other vehicles to drive the Mazda, so I had to wait the longest to drive this car. My first impression, quite frankly was not good. I noticed that the car had stalled several times when drivers first started on their way. Then when I drove the vehicle I found out why.
Since the vehicle is a stick shift, the Mazda engineer had told me that many people who were not used to sticks where having trouble letting out the clutch and giving the vehicle gas (hydrogen) at the same time. The Mazda RX8 RE was sporty and fast as one would expect from a sports car. It wasn’t as quiet as a fuel cell vehicle but I didn’t expect it to be. It was a fun ride, though, that everyone should experience.
Anyway, these are my firsthand impressions from these three hydrogen cars at the NHA Ride ‘N’ Drive. For me, personally, I have now driven 14 different models of hydrogen cars. I’ll talk about more information that I had learned at the NHA conference at a later time.