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AutoblogGreen Q&A with Jon Spallino - World's first retail fuel cell car customer

The Spallino family along with FCX Chief Engineers Yozo Kami and Sachito Fujimoto.

During the recent Honda FCX event at Laguna Seca, Honda invited the Spallino family of Redondo Beach, California along as special guests. Jon Spallino is the world's first retail customer of the current generation FCX, the only fully DOT and EPA certified fuel cell car available. AutoblogGreen spoke to Jon for a few minutes about his family's experience with day to day life with a fuel cell car.

ABG: You were the first family to get an FCX, what prompted you to get one?

JS: Back in the spring of 2004, I bought a new Honda Civic GX (the natural gas powered model) right off the lot, because a colleague of mine owned one and he had great experiences with it. I bought one and after owning it a few months, I got a call from Stephen Ellis at Honda [Marketing Manager for Alternative Fuel Vehicles, Honda of America] and he asked if I minded if he called every so often to see how I like the car, because not a lot of people drive alternative fuel cars. He called me a couple more times, and then finally said "I have an idea to run by you" and then when he dropped the idea on me of being the first retail fuel cell customer in the world. At the time I didn't know what that meant, but he explained to me what they were doing. They were looking for a family to use the car on a real-world basis. I signed a two year lease at $500/month starting in June 2005 and now we've got about six months left.

Continued after the jump

: Roughly how many miles have you put on the car in that time?

JS: About 10,500 miles so far.

ABG: Do you have a hydrogen filling station somewhere nearby where you live?

JS: The Honda campus is about 10 minutes from where I live and at that campus is a fueling station that generates the fuel via solar power.

ABG: Have you had any problems with the car? Obviously in southern California, cold weather isn't an issue.

JS: Cold weather's not an issue, but I've owned several new cars in my lifetime and all of them have had some type of mishap or technical glitch of one type or another, but I haven't had any with this FCX which is the biggest surprise. I was prepared for and fully expected to have some mechanical or electrical issues with it, but I haven't had any, the only problem was a flat tire. Other than that it's been fascinating that we haven't had more problems.

ABG: What's your driving mix, urban, highway or a mix?

JS: Mostly in the city, my wife is the primary user of the car for hauling the kids around to school, soccer and ballet. I do commute with it on the freeway once a week or so, but it's primarily driven in the city.

ABG: Do you plan to try and get one of the new cars when they are available?

JS: It would be nice. I'm just test driving it and looking at it for the first time today and as you can see, it's a dramatic difference from the current generation that I'm driving. It looks like they skipped a generation when they came up with this one. It's beautiful.

ABG: What other kinds of cars have you owned?

JS: Right now I still own my natural gas powered Civic GX, and we also own a 2007 Lexus ES350. So we have one conventional and two alt-fueled cars.

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