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.