However, many obstacles remain to its
commercial deployment. One challenge is developing a
production, delivery, and fueling station network capable of
sustaining commercial numbers of hydrogen vehicles. Thanks
largely to Toyota
and Honda, the roots of such a network have been planted in America's
largest urban centers: Los Angeles, California and New York, New
Now one of the American automakers is preparing
to step up its efforts to solve the other key challenge -- designing
vehicles capable of using hydrogen efficiently. GM has
announced plans to bring vehicles powered by the universe's most
abundant gas to the market in only six years. GM is targeting
the 2016 model year for
a commercial deployment of its fifth generation fuel cell
system. By the time the fifth generation lands, GM believes the
system's size, cost, reliability, and capabilities will be ready for
viable mass produced vehicles.
Currently, GM is wrapping up
testing its second generation fuel cells. These cells feature
impressive advances over GM's first generation cells. In total,
GM's second generation fuel cell system is 220 pounds lighter than
the previous generation, half the size, and uses half the precious
metals, while delivering comparable power.
Freese, executive director of GM Fuel Cell Activities, "The
improvements the team has been able to achieve are remarkable.
Hardware mechanization has been dramatically simplified, which will
help reduce cost, simplify manufacturing and improve durability."
says that it has spent $1.5B USD of its own money on fuel cell
vehicles, but it warns it won't be able to deploy the vehicle's
commercially without government and industry-wide support. Mr.
Freese adds, "GM has invested more than $1.5 billion in fuel
cell technology and we are committed to continuing to invest, but we
no longer can go it alone. As we approach a costly part of the
program, we will require government and industry partnerships to
install a hydrogen infrastructure and help create a customer pull for
To drum up interest in fuel cell vehicles,
GM has deployed 100 hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric Chevrolet
Equinox midsize crossovers powered by its first generation cells.
The vehicles have been driven over 1 million miles by ordinary
citizens and celebrities, since 2007. Two DailyTech
one of these vehicles at the Consumer Electronics Show in early
2008, and came away with favorable impressions.
GM and its
competitors Toyota and Honda are hoping that fuel distributors and
the U.S. government support a greater U.S. deployment over the next
several years. The German government just announced plans to
build 1,000 hydrogen fueling stations by 2015. In Japan, 13 oil
and gas companies have announced similar plans. That leaves the
U.S., which only has 73 existing
and 44 planned stations, far behind these foreign competitors
GM has high hopes, though, that the U.S. deployment will pick up and
it will catch up before 2015.
GM is also aggressively pursuing
commercial electric vehicle deployment – next year it will deliver
Chevy Volt EV.