GM has worked for years and has spent over $1.6 billion to develop fuel cells that convert pressurized hydrogen into electricity. Since late 2007 their Project Driveway program has placed more than 100 fuel cell Equinoxes in willing participants’ hands.
Two major problems with hydrogen-powered cars are the exorbitant cost of the technology (the fuel cell Equinoxes are said to cost $1 million a piece), and the lack of hydrogen fueling station infrastructure.
Skeptics argue the conversion of energy into pressurized hydrogen is an unnecessary and inefficient step as the pure electric car simply plugs into the grid for its power. Further it is argued the tremendous cost of building the needed infrastructure isn’t justifiable.
Nonetheless GM continues to work to refine the technology and considers fuel cells the final step in its electrification strategy, even as it readies the Volt’s launch.
Last September GM unveiled a new production-intent fuel cell system that fits in the same size space as a traditional 4 cylinder engine. They claim the new generation fuel cell stack and system is half the size, 220 pounds lighter, and uses 1/3 the platinum as the fuel cells in the current Project Driveway fleet.
On Tuesday they announced that the new systems are already operational and undergoing testing.
“Our learning from Project Driveway has been tremendous and these vehicles have been very important to our program,” said Charles Freese, executive director of GM’s Global Fuel Cell Program.
“The 30 months we committed to the demonstration are winding down, but we will keep upgrades of these vehicles running and will continue learning from them while we focus efforts on the production-intent program for 2015,” he said. “We will continue to use the Project Driveway fleet strategically to advance fuel cell technology, hydrogen infrastructure, and GM’s vehicle electrification goals.”
GM has not announced what if any vehicle the tests are being conducted in, nor its exact 2015 commercialization plans.
GM spokesperson Alan Adler told GM-Volt, “the production intent system is not an extended range Voltec system.”
In 2007 GM showed a variant of the Volt concept in which the gas range extender was replaced with a fuel cell system.
“We are not abandoning the fuel-cell technology,” Freese told Bloomberg. “Through the worst years in this company’s history we maintained the program and maintained the forward progress.”
Freese also told Bloomberg “invested over $1.6 billion in fuel cells. We didn’t do it because people were talking about the technology. We did it because we think it’s one of the right elements to have.”
Lamenting the lack of government-funded infrastructure development Freese added “we have anything but consistent policy in this country.”
This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 17th, 2010 at 6:24 am and is filed under Hydrogen, Project Driveway. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.