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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 Samus on 9/26/2009 5:24:08 AM , Rating: 0
I'm constantly shocked when I hear people push nuclear over geothermal, a clearly superior energy production technology.


RE: Problems
By randomly on 9/26/2009 6:57:40 AM , Rating: 2
With high temperature nuclear reactors you can use the sulfur-iodine cycle for production of hydrogen which is much more efficient than using electricity from geothermal for the job. Electrolysis is only about 50% efficient. Geothermal does not give you high enough temperatures to drive the chemical process.

Although they are hoping to break even with the ITER fusion tokamak, the problem is one of cost. Although confidence is high, many fusion researchers don't believe that the tokamak approach will ever be able to produce energy in a cost effective mannner. It's just too expensive and too complex to run for the energy output. If fusion is going to be an energy source for us it's probably going to depend on the success of the Polywell, Focus fusion, or the Field-reversed configuration.


RE: Problems
By borismkv on 9/26/2009 2:25:03 PM , Rating: 2
Geothermal isn't feasible in all locations. Most places where geothermal *is* feasible, it's already being used. Nuclear works wherever you put it and is not utilized even remotely as well as it could be yet.


RE: Problems
By Samus on 9/26/09, Rating: 0
RE: Problems
By gerf on 9/26/2009 7:21:57 PM , Rating: 2
The most efficient geothermal merely uses steam released from the ground directly. A lot of the early wells have gone dry of steam/water. Sometimes, water can be re-injected, but even then, the original output isn't as high. Providing that much water is a problem in the dry areas where it's an issue, raising costs.

Another problem for long-term geothermal is corrosion. Geothermal waters are full of all kinds of nasty minerals and salts that are quite destructive on equipment, increasing costs yet again.

But hell, even if it's not a hydrogen answer, it should be checked out as much as possible. I'd say wind and solar have more widespread promise, but that's just my guesstimate.


RE: Problems
By axeman1957 on 9/29/2009 10:40:43 AM , Rating: 2
California is not the west coast, Washington has some of the lowest energy prices in the US due to the excess they produce.


RE: Problems
By teldar on 9/27/2009 8:25:50 AM , Rating: 3
Do you have any reasons for CLEARLY superior geothermal power? I personally believe nuclear is CLEARLY superior to ALL other possible energy sources. In the long run it is cheaper and as green as everything else.
The failure of the new plants (gen 5):None
The radioactive waste generation of the new plants: Basically none
The power generation of the new plants: OMG


RE: Problems
By slunkius on 9/28/2009 8:47:12 AM , Rating: 1
where can i see this nuclear plant producing "basically none radioactive waste"?


RE: Problems
By joos2000 on 9/27/2009 5:33:57 PM , Rating: 2
Well, it all honesty, it is not really production. It is harvesting. But sure, why not use what is already there?


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