GM Fuel Cell Program Keeps 2015 In Its Sights

The recent report that Hundyai is close to bringing out a fuel cell vehicle has prompted an update from GM on its hydrogen projects, which are actually more extensive than you might imagine, given how little we hear about them. And the company still sees fuel cell vehicles going into production – albeit in a limited fashion – within just a few years.

“We do believe fuel cells can be commercialized by (the) 2015/2016 time frame, in limited quantities, in specific geographic regions where refueling infrastructures exist,” GM’s Randy Fox, manager, Electric Vehicle Technology Communications, told GM-Volt.com, a website unaffiliated with GM but with a good pipeline to the automaker.

GM fuel cells

image via Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative

This statement fits with our report from 2010, when GM announced it would build off its Project Driveway fuel cell program, which it had begun in 2007, with a “production-intent fuel cell system” that was half the size, 220 pounds lighter and used about a third of the platinum of the system found in the Driveway-program Chevy Equinoxes.

Those Equinoxes haven’t disappeared, however: Fox told GM-Volt.com there are still 100 on roads around the world, and the cars in the program together have driven 2.5 millions.

A lot of GM’s present work with fuel cells is taking place in Hawaii. It’s pretty obvious that one of the biggest challenges fuel-cell vehicles face is the utter lack of a fueling infrastructure. So GM went to Hawaii in 2010 to develop a hydrogen infrastructure pilot in collaboration with the state’s major gas energy provider, The Gas Company (TGC).

The Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative actually includes 13 agencies, companies and universities. It was launched in December 2010 with the goal developing a hydrogen infrastructure in the state and displacing petroleum imports by operating vehicles with renewable hydrogen.

The military is one of the partners in the program. The Navy is testing at least five fuel-cell vehicles at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and in February this year, the Army said it had 16 such vehicles in its fleet.

“Once the key hydrogen infrastructure elements are proven in Hawaii, other states can adopt a similar approach,” Charles Freese, executive director of global fuel cell activities for GM, said in February. “The military is paving the way, demonstrating the practicality and applicability of this technology.”

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.