Gm Exec: Hydrogen Powered Cars Could be on the Road in 6 Years

By: Iver Penn

Soon hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicles could be on the road with regular drivers behind the wheel in a few test areas. How soon? Within five or six years, according to Larry Burns, vice president of research and development for General Motors Corp. The GM official offered the prediction this week as the company announced that it has moved 500 fuel cell engineers and scientists from the laboratory side of the company into the chain of command that actually produces cars.

Burns said he's not yet willing to say exactly when hydrogen vehicles will be mass produced, but did say that it should happen before 2020, the year many experts have predicted.

"I sure would be disappointed if we weren't there before 2020," he said during a Wednesday interview with The Associated Press at his office in GM's sprawling technical center campus in the Detroit suburb of Warren. He also added that GM's organizational change, announced Friday, shows the company is confident enough in its research to take the step toward making the cars.

Burns compared GM's organizational change to when it moved its engineers working on hybrid gasoline-electric power systems from research to production in 2003. At that time GM had no hybrid models on the market -- now it has five, he said.

Hydrogen-powered fuel-cell cars use hydrogen to produce electricity that fuels an electric motor. They are quieter than gasoline engines and their only waste product is water. The benefits of this technology are reduced dependence on petroleum for transportation as well as reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Virtually every automaker is testing hydrogen-powered vehicles, with Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. considered the furthest along.

Government and industry experts have said that there are many obstacles to widespread use of hydrogen-powered cars, ranging from high costs and a lack of fueling stations to the need for improved storage capacity and better range.

GM workers will not physically move from their three U.S. locations and one site in Germany. But Burns said the structural change is important in GM's quest for leadership in the race to bring a fuel-cell electric vehicle into mass production. A small group will stay in research to develop longer-term technology.

GM - which also is maker of quality - already has hand-built the Sequel, a hydrogen-powered crossover sport utility vehicle with a range of about 300 miles. It was driven safely on public roads during a recent trip in upstate New York. Engineers still need to reduce the costs though to make fuel cell vehicles marketable, Burns said.

The company also plans to place more than 100 fuel cell-powered vehicles with consumers in New York, Washington and Los Angeles later this year.

Once the wider testing areas are set up and engineers can check real-world performance, Burns said he expects fuel cell vehicles and the necessary filling stations to spread gradually throughout the world.

Top Searches on
Mileage and Fuel
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Mileage and Fuel
 



Share this article :
Click to see more related articles