GM vows production-ready hydrogen fuel cell by 2015

GM vows production-ready hydrogen fuel cell by 2015

08:42 AM

By GM

General Motors thinks it has cut so much weight and complexity out of its hydrogen fuel cell system that it says it could be production-ready by 2015.

 

Drive On got a look at the fuel cells yesterday at a presentation in Burbank, Calif. The new one, at right, is half the size, 220 pounds lighter and uses a third of the expensive platinum needed in the original, which is being real-world tested in a fleet of 119 Chevrolet Equinox SUVs. (It was an even 120, but one got totaled in an accident. No hydrogen escaped.)

 

 

Note that GM calls the latest powerplant a "production-intent hydrogen fuel cell system," meaning it conceivably could be mass produced at a feasible cost. But GM won’t commit to marketing a fuel-cell vehicle. No surprise there given how GM made hybrid concept cars a decade ago, then refused to market them as unprofitable until Toyota and Honda started conquering the market. So don’t count on finding a GM fuel-cell vehicle at your local showroom in five years. Progress hasn’t exactly stayed on schedule, either:

 

GM’s former engineering chief, Larry Burns, had predicted a few years ago that production-ready powerplant would be ready in 2010, so you can see how these promises go.

Still, Charlie Freese, executive director of GM’s global fuel-cell activities, pointed out to reporters that GM had plenty of opportunities to kill its hydrogen program during its bankruptcy — but didn’t.

The new powerplant is the size of a four-cylinder engine, far from the monster it replaces. GM has more miles on fuel cells at this point than any other automaker — three years in a Project Driveway fleet that has logged 1.2 million miles and gone through 16,000 refuelings.

"Our learning from Project Driveway has been tremendous and these vehicles have been very important to our program," Freese said.

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