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The end is nigh for the internal combustion engine at General Motors...eventually. Today, GM is taking a huge step in that direction by reassigning most of its fuel cell engineers and scientists from the research and development group to various production engineering groups.
Of the close to 700 staff that have been developing fuel cell technology at GM's Honeoye Falls, N.Y. research facility, more than 400 will now report to Powertrain to work on bringing GM's latest generation fuel cell stack to production readiness. Another 100 engineers will now work in the global product development team to work on vehicle integration, while the rest will stay in the research group.

[Source: General Motors via AutoblogGreen]

GM Prepares Fuel Cell Technology for Future Production


Aligns Fuel Cell Researchers with Company's Core Engineering Organizations

DETROIT – General Motors Corp. is moving more than 500 fuel cell experts from advanced development laboratories to core engineering functions to prepare this technology for future production.

More than 400 fuel cell engineers will 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 start 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 transition is aimed at expediting the company's efforts to produce vehicles that displace petroleum through energy diversity.

"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," said Larry Burns, GM Vice President, Research and Development. "Today's announcement signals another important milestone as we move fuel cell vehicles closer to future production."

GM shared 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 in April. This latest system is half the size of its predecessor, yet provides the same power and performance.

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.

"Moving our fuel cell experts from advanced development laboratories to our core engineering organizations highlights our strong commitment to developing electrically-driven vehicles using diverse energy sources" said Tom Stephens, GM Group Vice President of Global Powertrain.

Leading the fuel cell engineering team is Dr. J. Byron McCormick, currently executive director, GM Fuel Cell Activities. He will report simultaneously to Dan Hancock, GM Powertrain Vice President, Global Engineering, and John Buttermore, GM Powertrain Vice President, Global Manufacturing. McCormick has been working on electric and fuel cell propulsion system research and development for more than 30 years. He was instrumental in the development of the EV-1 electric vehicle, and during the past 10 years, has led the GM fuel cell activities team to becoming the world's leader in fuel cell technology.

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:

  • E85-capable biofuel vehicles – GM is a leading producer with more than 2 million on the road today
  • GM's 2-mode hybrid system for large city buses
  • GM's Hybrid System in the Saturn Vue Green Line and Saturn Aura Green Line
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
Additionally, GM provides more vehicles that achieve 30 mpg on the highway than any other manufacturer in the U.S. market. GM is also the first automotive member to join the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a group of global companies and non-governmental organizations formed to support an economy-wide, market-driven approach to reducing carbon emissions.


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  • 19 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Can we stop using "ICE" so much?
      A few months ago on autoblog there was an article about ICE. It stood for In Case of Emergency.

      Then last week's article had the headline "ICE" and after reading it I found it stood for In Car Entertainment.

      And now today it stands for Internal Combustion Engine.

      Please stick to one acronym!
        • 7 Years Ago
        That is ICE to hear !! Sorry ..my bad...I could not resist.
        • 7 Years Ago
        When I read the title, my mind spelled out "In-Car Entertainment" which on the enthusiast site I frequent, refers to anything A/V, nav, or computer in the car.

        I feel your frustration.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I can envision Society growing the Hydrogen industry much like the cell phone industry took shape. It started with a few locations of service in the large urban areas such NYC and LA. Then spread to intermediate sized cities, then in 10-15 more years, practically everyone has them. I would have loved to hear the nay sayers of circa 1970 for instance, see the proliferation of these devices today. I'm sure you would have heard back then, "It'll never work, never happen, and nobody except for rich business people would ever buy them." Wow...were they wrong!

      I agree with a few other previous posters in that Nuclear, wind and wave energy is going to be the bulk of the sources producing the Hydrogen. Transporting of the H2 will probably be via tanker trucks much like it is transported already to corporations or plants that use it.

      As for people wondering why not just skipping H2 and use BEV's only, well, the range of BEV's still isn't good enough for most people. However, fuel cell range extender version of the Chevy Volt is barking up the right tree I think.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Oh, wingedwheel57, why must you ruin the discussion with facts?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Can they make the fuel cell cheap and last as long as a ICE? Say 300 thousand miles?
      • 7 Years Ago
      GM has to do something to keep a head of Toyota. This would be a good start and positioning.

      Rob
      http://www.autoshortlist.com
      • 7 Years Ago
      It's very good to see GM apply some forward thinking.

      Their FC efforts have the potential of becoming strong market differentiators.
      • 7 Years Ago
      now if only GM would've stayed in their EV1 program WHILE working on HFC technology and incorporate the two.. they'd actually be kicking butt in the automotive world, being out there with that before any one else with a production vehicle.. Honestly, I can't wait to see gasoline ICE's die off and be replaced by EV using either a battery pack or HFC to power it. Diesel engines are the only real exemption to use in commerical truck applications, but maybe as a Biodiesel electric hybrid to be able to handle the big loads they do while being more efficient. It's not that hard to do all this,but the only real challenge is getting the general public to get their heads out of their butts and take the gas can from their mouths to stop guzzling and worshipping gasoline as the one and only fuel. Being green will save you green.. in your wallet even though initial startup costs can seem daunting. in the long run you will save money (since that seems a better way of getting people's attention than saying it'll help the environment)
      • 7 Years Ago
      As Ted points out, the fundamental problem with a "hydrogen economy" is that you have to produce the stuff. For that, you need to either reform natural gas or, split water via electrolysis. Both of these are quite inefficient. In the latter case, in spite of all the warm fuzzy advertising involving solar cells and wind turbines, you're really looking at a massive build-up of nuclear power.

      In the short-to-medium term, downsized gasoline engines (possibly microhybrids) plus clean diesel offer much greater bang for buck than fuel cell technology does. In the long term, straight BEVs will likely beat out fuel cells because the distribution infrastructure for electricity already exists.

      Ergo, fuel cell vehicles will probably never get a chance to achieve significant market share and never make much of a difference to the twin problems of energy security and global warming. Hydrogen-powered cars are just the wet dream of CARB administrators and nuclear lobbyists, plus a few (admittedly influential) engineering managers in the auto industry.
      • 7 Years Ago
      does anyone else here see this as the beginning of the end of Fuel Cell work at GM, with a big happy face on it?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Im really interested in the idea of a combustion engine used simply as a generator for an electric system. A small, low rpm, (bio)diesel motor to continuously charged the electric system. the torque of electric motors tops that of even a diesel at the very very low rpm range does it not?
      • 7 Years Ago
      My prediction: GM is going to become a serious powerhouse in the next 10 years, look out. They might even swallow up Ford one day (I'd rather see that then Ford go under entirely).

      Goodbye internal combustion engine, you've served us well over the past 100 years or so. Time to go the way of the horse and buggy.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I posted on autobloggreen, but I thought i'd repost here:

      Hydrogen is currently very expensive - why?

      Hydrogen, one of the most abundant elements in the universe, is almost never alone, it is chemically attached to something else.

      It usually takes a lot of energy to separate the hydrogen from other elements.

      Where does that energy come from? Electricity!

      What G.W. Bush really means when he talks about the "hydrogen" economy is really the "nuclear" or as he calls it the "nucular" economy. Nuclear generated electricity is the only environmentally friendly, and cost effective way to get the electricity on scale that we need to produce hydrogen.

      One has to ask the obvious question: If we are going to build new nuclear power plants to get all this hydrogen, why don't we just go straight to electric cars?

      GM, put the research dollars into battery technology. Hydrogen is a very short term solution. Better batteries are the best long term bet.

      -ted
        • 7 Years Ago
        Ted,

        while this is true, you must look at the big picture. Over time, we will have the lateral leverage to be able to source energy from whatever means available to produce the hydrogen.

        The sheer amount of hydrogen available, plus the fact that it never really gets 'used up,' gives it a clear advantage over petroleum. There is a clear idea that we will run out of oil if we continue to consume at this pace.

        Plus, once we shift to clean energy sources: wind, hydro, solar, nuclear, etc., we can end our dependence on fossil fuels. This can't be flipped like a switch, it will be gradual.

        Alternative fuel sources such as this will enable the leverage needed to begin the transition. Please don't think shortsightedly.

        Yes, at first, we will still have the dependence on fossil fuels since the electricity used to convert water to hydrogen is produced mainly through coal and oil burning. But when the future electricity sources change, our cars will not care where we got our hydrogen from.
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