Why test vehicles?
Nothing beats real people driving vehicles on real roads to understand how FCVs will behave over a 150,000 mile, 10-year life span. Some of the things that engineers learn from demonstration programs are:
When you get into your car, you may drive fast or slow, for hours or only a few minutes. How does this cycling affect efficiency and durability over the life of the vehicle? Does it change if the car is always in stop-and-go traffic, or regularly driven on the open freeway? What needs to be adjusted to make sure that performance is consistent from driver to driver?
Road vibrations can’t be exactly duplicated in a laboratory. How do potholes, speed bumps, pavement grooves and other road conditions affect the efficiency and durability of the mechanical and electronic components?
People use vehicles in extreme and changing climates. Is performance the same in a hot dry climate as it is in a wet or cold climate? Does altitude, humidity, air quality or temperature make a difference in the lifespan of the vehicle?
Most people want a vehicle that is similar to what they drive now, only better. Is the FCV driver comfortable with the range of the vehicle? How quickly does the driver get used to filling with a gaseous fuel? What nuances do real world drivers discover?
Most of the automakers and transit agencies have demonstrated several generations of fuel cell vehicles, each building on the lessons learned. Many are now demonstrating their “pre-commercial” vehicles, meaning the next generation may be the vehicle that they sell or lease to customers.