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GM's first generation fuel cell system has been extensively tested by a fleet of 100 retrofitted Chevy Equinox fuel cell vehicles.  (Source: Car and Driver)

GM's second generation fuel cells are 220 lb lighter, use half the precious metals, and take up half the space of the previous generation system.  (Source: AutoBlog Green)
Despite a strong push for electric, GM isn't skimping on hydrogen, another popular "green" vehicle technology

Hydrogen is an attractive alternative fuel for the auto industry in some respects.  The technology to produce it with electricity already exists, and it would provide an ideal way to store energy from alternative energy sources such as clean nuclear fission, wind, solar, and (eventually) nuclear fusion. 

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 York. 

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.

States Charles 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."

GM 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 the products."

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 staffers drove 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 [Source].  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 the 2011 Chevy Volt EV.



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RE: Problems
By elgueroloco on 9/26/2009 1:10:47 AM , Rating: 5
Your concern about fresh water shortage is quite unfounded. The exhaust from a hydrogen reaction is fresh, distilled water. You could include a tank on the car that stores the exhaust water and then drain it and drink it.

Also, if you are fueling from a station, the station could be selling hydrogen that was made from sea water, or at least reclaimed water. This would actually help eliminate the fresh water shortage.


RE: Problems
By TSS on 9/26/2009 8:18:44 AM , Rating: 2
hmmm....

let me get into the head of an devil's advocate enviromentalist doomthinker here ^^ suppose this technology became the dominant form of powering our cars.

Then alot of cars emitting water where there wasn't before... well on sunny days that water isn't going into the sewer, it'll just evaporate.

so in the city it would lead to alot more water evaporating where there wasn't any before, and more water evaporated = more rain.

more rain where there was less rain before = enviromental impact, no? :P

also fresh water might be good for us, it's less fun for salt water creatures....


RE: Problems
By Fietsventje on 9/27/2009 5:44:03 AM , Rating: 3
Just to put things in perspective:

If you burn fossil fuels, next to CO2, the main other resulting gas is H2O. Water.


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