Honda Motor Co. on Thursday unveiled a new fuel cell-powered vehicle that has a quicker startup time, more sophisticated control systems and a smaller drive motor — improvements that take the high-tech car one step closer to commercial viability.

The FCX-V3, Honda’s third fuel-cell car, is powered by pure hydrogen and starts in 10 seconds, Honda officials said, which is a vast improvement on the 10 minutes required to start previous models.

The car also boasts enough cabin space to seat four people, double the space of previous models, they said.

Honda said it intends to further develop earlier models such as the FCX-V1, which also runs on pure hydrogen, and the FCX-V2, which runs on methanol. The FCX-V3 will participate in the California Fuel Cell Partnership program, which starts in November. The project, which involves both public- and private-sector participation, aims to study and verify future prospects, infrastructure requirements and mass production issues as well as promote fuel-cell vehicles.

While fuel cell-powered vehicles are not yet available on the market, Honda said it aims to begin selling them by the end of 2003.

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