• Sep 18th 2006 at 12:01AM
  • 14

General Motors is building the world's largest fleet of fuel cell vehicles for real-world testing. The company will place more than 100 Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cells with drivers around the world starting in the fall of 2007.

"This is about making it real," said Bryon McCormick, executive director of Fuel Cell Activities at GM. "As a company, we need to engage real customers."

The U.S. will get at least 100 vehicles with others planned for Asia and Europe. A variety of drivers will be selected in three regions: California, New York metropolitan and Washington D.C. The test areas are limited by the availability of hydrogen fueling stations. Each driver will have the vehicle from three to 30 months.

The Equinox Fuel Cell powertrain is similar to the equipment in the Sequel concept vehicle that journalists were allowed to drive when GM made the announcement. Equinox Fuel Cells were not available for test drives at that time.

Called "Project Driveaway," GM says the deployment plan is the first "meaningful" market test of fuel cell vehicles in the world. The vehicles will be built by GM Canada in Oshawa.

"The process is no longer a lab experiment," added McCormick. "Now it is a process."

The Equinox Fuel Cell will be powered by GM's 4th-generation fuel-cell propulsion system. It's engineered for 50,000 miles of life and can operate in sub-freezing temperatures. The vehicle is also equipped with a full range of safety equipment, such as side-impact air bags, anti-lock brakes and stability control.

Using the Equinox as a test bed for hydrogen technology ties well with the Sequel being badged a Chevrolet. The Chevy dealer network is the largest in the country and the brand appeals to a wide variety of consumers.

From a user standpoint, the Equinox Fuel Cell is only slightly different than a mainstream Equinox crossover vehicle. Seating is limited to four occupants with a 2-seat rear bench and console. Suspension modifications were needed as the weight ballooned up almost 700 pounds to 4,431 pounds. But rear cargo area is down only slightly to 32 cubic feet. Maximum payload is 750 pounds.

A total of 4.2kg of hydrogen fuel is stored in three carbon-fiber tanks that are mounted underneath and behind the rear passengers. Engineers say the tanks and the vehicle have been fully tested in both virtual and track crashes. The front-wheel-drive Equinox is powered by a 94kW electric motor than can deliver 0-60 times in the 12-second range. Top speed is 100 mph and the operating range is 200 miles. The system also includes a nickel metal hydride battery pack rated at 35kW that can be charged with regenerative braking. It is located under the floorboard of the rear-seat passengers.

Chevrolet will distinguish the Equinox Fuel Cell with a brilliant white Glacier Cold tri-color paint job and water-molecule graphics. Different front and rear fascia are also used for air intake and exhaust routing. The instrument panel gets fuel-cell specific gauges, including a running tally of the gasoline saved.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      I work in Warren Mi. near GM and live just a short drive north in the burbs. With a 40 mile round trip to work and running around three kids to Hockey and dance etc. i would love to be able to test this vehicle.
      • 9 Years Ago
      GO go go, we need this.
      • 8 Years Ago
      How does one go about being selected to participate in this Test Bed?
      • 7 Years Ago
      I would love to be part of this trial I drive
      m-f everday 80 miles to work by freeway. This has great potential
      • 7 Years Ago
      GREAT NEWS..!! I'm an independent car dealer down here in south florida and would love the oppurtunity to demonstrate this vehicle to me customers..!!
      • 9 Years Ago
      GO go go, we need this.
      • 9 Years Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      i would love to be a tester. i live in nc and havae the mountains and coast within driving distance from my home in the piedmont. how do we sign up. i am an avid car enthusiast.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have heard your test driver region is west Los Angeles. This is perfect since I live in the WLA region and have dreamed of driving a hydrogen FC vehicle using an alternate fuel ever since my teen years when I learned about burning hydrogen that was created from H2O electrolysis. I am now 44 and still dream about H-powered autos.

      Having the opportunity to test the Equinox FC would be perfect for me because of the following:
      1) I am an industrial design graduate from the ArtCenterCollege of Design (BS, Transp. design, 3.87gpa). My user reactions might be of interest to Chevrolet et al. Additionally I took two internships for Transportation design. One at Renault Motort Co, France, the other in michigan for interior parts and component design at Prince Corporation, in Holland Mich.

      2) I decided to turn down a Ford car design design offer in the early 90s for a job that kept me in CA film industry. It was not an easy choice to make but luck smiled on my behalf and I gradually started to get more work in the entertainment industry like Terminator 2 & 3, Batman Returns and Batman & Robin, The Game, Fantastic Four, Armageddon, Jumanji, Tall Tale, Seven, Hook, MenInBlack, and several more. I design sets and props/vehicles, weapons, and costumes. My usual working haunts are Sony Films (aka>mgm), Warner Bros, Universal Studios, Paramount, et al.

      3) I also gained some film directing experience on TV commercals/music videos at a few production companies like Propaganda, Underground, Atlas, in my last few years before my head injury. I really enjoyed filming ads for a variety of brands like Oreos, Cheetos, Central Carolina bank, Nabisco, SonyPlaystation, etc.

      4) Having experience in directing commercial directing could be a great opportunity for Chevrolet and also for me to drive an equinox lease vehicle. My opinions could be very valuable and perhaps a little more special since I can relate well with car designs that have been made by former colleagues from ACCD that now may be working at Chevrolet. And I have a professional directing style that could give the Hydrogen FC market a boost in adoptabiity by the consumer!

      It could be a really clever partnership of a real film director who gets to lead the Equinox FC Ad campaign as well of the car company that feels the partnership is a plus plus endeavor. Frankly I feel it is a unique advertising angle for the suv public that is eager to keep their suvs yet anxious to trade up to a more politically correct form of Hollywood transportation, without giving up the comforts and security they have become accustomed to in Southern California.

      4) Lastly I feel like a good candidate for testing because my last vehicle was a Jeep Grand Cherokee model which I owned two of, back to back. I liked the Jeeps so much I had planned on continuing ownership of Grand Cherokees for a long time. It is the Hydrogen factor that has changed my mind and caused me to look at all suv makers in the USA. The Equinox FC has really caught my attention not only because it is the "right package" I seek but also the PC environmentally conscious product we've been waiting for.

      5) My last Cherokee had to be sold because I suffered some serious bodily and anoxic injuries due to a botched medical cranium/brain operation. This caused me to lose bodily control and impaired my speech, reasoning, and capacity to work as a designer in Hollywood. I've been recovering in rehab hospitals as well as at home.
      So leasing the Equinox FC suv would fit the bill just perfectly since I no longer own a vehicle.

      Perhaps I will get this opportunity to not only return to driving but also serving as a good trial customer. I really need this product as I get ready to work again and I feel Chevy can gain a lot more then just another customer, since I could also reward by Chevrolet benefactors with a marketable record of Equinox ownership.

      Please consider and act upon this opportunity for both of us that is anchored by real life conditions out west.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'm in AZ. Would you like a car to be tested in the heat of AZ
      • 7 Years Ago
      I would like to be added to the list of test drivers. I am a GM-ASEP instructor at Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY.

      Thank you very much.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Exxon, Chevron and Conoco will buy up all these vehicles to keep them off the road...

      Tell me where do I sign up for testing...I'll tell you the truth about it...not BS...
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