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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 drmo on 9/28/2009 2:53:18 PM , Rating: 2
75% electrolysis efficiency.
http://www.qsinano.com/white_papers/2006_09_15.pdf
Maybe it is bunk; I don't know.

I may have been wrong about the 60% (I had thought it was fuel cell to wheel), but then your number (50%) was wrong too, because that is closer to fuel cell to wheel, which was not included in the battery number you gave.

I did not mean to imply well-to-wheel efficiency was better for hydrogen than batteries, only to point out that there are other factors (like weight), that make batteries less efficient than they at first appear. I think it is clear that batteries will beat all other storage in terms of efficiency by a long shot.

Also, diesel is not easily renewable, so it fails to do what I said in my last post: replace fossil fuels. Maybe the algae thing will work on a large scale, maybe not. Diesel cannot be produced from excess electricity either. Diesel emissions also are linked to cancer:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/09090...

Personally, I think the Volt-like system is the way to go, rather than pure EV, but to get away from fossil fuels, then diesel and gas will probably need to be replaced. Biological production of these will only go so far, and the infrastructure to make enough biodiesel and biopetrol is probably more than is needed to set up hydrogen production by photovoltaic/ electrolysis/natural gas reformers at many gas stations.

Also, keep in mind, that hydrogen is a long-term solution, not immediate: from the oft-quoted MIT study:

“If auto systems with significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions are required in, say, 30 to 50 years, hydrogen is the only major fuel option identified to date,” said Heywood. http://www.dieselnet.com/news/2003/03mit.php


RE: Problems
By randomly on 9/28/2009 6:37:21 PM , Rating: 2
I'm dubious of those claims of 75%. They don't really tell you how it was measured or what the reference was. Was it compared to the lower or higher heating value of hydrogen etc. You have to be careful of the definitions and measurement techniques. Find an actual working electrolyzer system.

None of the values I gave included to the wheel values. They are only from energy source to the electric output at the fuel cell or battery. Including to the wheel values just obscures the comparison between the fuel cell and batteries because the size, weight, design of the cars has so much impact on the end result and the cars used are never the same.

My point is that the over all efficiency of a hydrogen economy is so low and the cost so high that it's not an economically viable approach with technology that can be forseen in the next 20 years.

If even the real experts and fuel cell companies like Ballard Power Systems don't have any faith in the automotive fuel cell market, they probably know what they are talking about. Ballard pulled out of the hydrogen vehicle sector of it's business in 2007.

Research Capital analyst Jon Hykawy concluded that Ballard saw the industry going nowhere and said: "In my view, the hydrogen car was never alive. The problem was never could you build a fuel cell that would consume hydrogen, produce electricity, and fit in a car. The problem was always, can you make hydrogen fuel at a price point that makes any sense to anybody. And the answer to that to date has been no.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballard_Power_Systems


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