The day-to-day practicality of fuel cell technology on Chinese roads is to be examined.

Three fuel-cell powered buses have been handed over to a Chinese delegation which will gauge the acceptance level for the new technology by Beijing residents. The buses will arrive in China mid-September and at the end of the year will enter regular service on a 19km stretch in the city.

The project is being run under the aegis of the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology and other project partners are the Beijing Public Transport Corporation, one of the world's largest public transport authorities with 17,000 buses which will operate the three new Citaro buses, the oil company BP which will provide the hydrogen, Sinohytec will produce the hydrogen and the Tsinghua University in Beijing, will be responsible for scientific monitoring of the project and evaluation of results.

Another project partner is the United Nations Development Program which is paying 40 per cent of the vehicle costs.

Air pollution is a major problem in densely populated areas of China and there are tentative plans to ban road traffic in some large conurbations and inner city areas during the summer months.

Other objectives of the project are to gain experience with fuel-cell drive technology and in producing and handling hydrogen in the transport sector.