Gm Readies Fuel Cell Technology for Future Production

by : Iver Penn

General Motors Corp. is looking to advance its fuel cell ambitions to another level by moving more than 500 fuel cell experts from advanced development laboratories to core engineering functions to prepare this technology for future production.

According to media reports, more than 400 fuel cell engineers are set to report to GM's Powertrain Group to begin production engineering of fuel cell systems. Another 100 will transfer to GM's Global Product Development organization to begin integrating fuel cells into future company vehicles. Finally, more than 150 fuel cell scientists and program support will remain as part of GM's Research and Development center to continue advanced research in hydrogen storage, fuel cells and program commercialization.

The move is aimed at speeding up the company's efforts to produce vehicles that displace petroleum through energy diversity.

According to Larry Burns, GM Vice President, Research and Development, "Eight years ago we said that hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle technology could make a major contribution to solving the energy and environmental challenges facing the automobile industry." The announcement, Burns adds, signals another important milestone as GM moves fuel cell vehicles closer to future production.

GM, maker of quality , gave the details about its fifth-generation fuel cell system technology when it unveiled the fuel cell-powered E-Flex version of the Chevrolet Volt at the Shanghai Auto Show last April. This latest system is half the size of its predecessor, yet provides the same power and performance.

This realignment is yet another initiative in GM's commitment to displace petroleum usage in the auto industry through a range of propulsion alternatives, including:

&bull E85-capable biofuel vehicles - GM is a leading producer with more than 2 million on the road today

&bull GM's 2-mode hybrid system for large city buses

&bull GM's Hybrid System in the Saturn Vue Green Line and Saturn Aura Green Line

&bull Coming this fall, GM's 2-mode hybrid system in the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon full-size SUVs, which provides a more than 25-percent improvement in fuel economy to what is already the industry's most fuel-efficient large SUVs, with no compromises in performance or towing capability

&bull Due next year, a front-wheel-drive 2-mode Saturn Vue Green Line that is expected to deliver up to a 45-percent improvement in combined city and highway fuel economy compared with the current non-hybrid Vue, based on current federal test procedures

&bull Plans to produce a plug-in version of the 2-mode hybrid Vue Green Line that has the potential to achieve double the fuel efficiency of any current SUV

GM's fourth-generation system currently powers the Chevrolet Sequel and Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles. The Sequel recently went into the record books as the first electrically-driven fuel cell vehicle to achieve more than 300 miles on one tank of hydrogen, in and out of traffic on public roads, while producing zero emissions. The Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell will be launched later this year as part of Project Driveway, which will place more than 100 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles with consumers in New York, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles.