BMW AG and Delphi Automotive Systems have a third partner in their quest to bring automotive fuel cells to market. French automaker Renault SA joins the solid-oxide fuel cell development agreement launched by Delphi and BMW in April 1999.

BMW intends to use the solid-oxide fuel cell as an auxiliary source for gasoline-powered passenger cars, while Renault will install them in light and heavy-duty diesel trucks. Delphi and BMW say they plan to produce the unit in the near future.

Automakers are pursuing fuel cells aggressively for their enormous potential as a renewable source of energy and reduced emissions, compared to internal combustion engines. A fuel cell converts energy stored in fuel directly to electricity without combustion and emits nothing but water vapor.

The technology will allow BMW and Renault to offer vehicles with more electrical and electronic features that can run with the engine off. BMW says it intends to be the first automaker to bring this feature to market for passenger cars. Also, the unit accepts standard automotive fuels, making changes to the fuel infrastructure unnecessary, the companies say.