Virgin Atlantic announced that it has joined forces with Chevy's "Project Driveway" program. Richard Branson's airline is going to use three Chevrolet Equinox hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for its "complimentary ground transfer service for upper class passengers" for planes landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The program will last for 30 months. Virgin and Chevrolet are studying the possibility to expand this service to New York.

Branson stated that this program was one of Virgin's initiatives to reduce the airline's carbon footprint. GM's Larry Burns said that it was a perfect endorsement of GM's fuel cell technology and "an important new avenue for demonstrating the new DNA of the automobile."

The Chevy Equinox looks like a conventional production car but the ICE has been with a fuel cell system plus a nickel-metal hydride battery pack under the floor of the vehicle. It's got three compressed hydrogen storage tanks made of carbon fiber and pressurized to 10,000 pounds per square inch (psi). The tanks contain roughly nine pounds (4.2 kg) of hydrogen good for a range of approximately 150 miles (220 km). Full press release after the jump.


VA Joins Chevy's "Project Driveway" Program to Market Test Fuel Cell Vehicles

NEW YORK – Virgin Atlantic Airways, Ltd. today announced it will use Chevrolet Equinox hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for its "complimentary ground transfer service for upper class passengers" for planes landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The announcement was made by Virgin Atlantic President Sir Richard Branson and Dr. Lawrence Burns, GM vice president of Research & Development and Strategic planning, and at a news conference in New York. Project Driveway is already underway; the Virgin partnership continues through the duration of the 30-month program.

Project Driveway is the world's largest fuel cell vehicle test ever – placing more than 100 zero emissions electric vehicles powered by hydrogen on the streets of key markets in the U.S. and around the world.

Beginning later this month (in March), Virgin will use three zero-petroleum, zero-emission Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicles, fueled with hydrogen, as ground transportation shuttles, running to and from the airport serving the Los Angeles area. The partnership opens the door to possible future activities between Chevrolet and Virgin, involving the same type of service for New York. In addition, the relationship will help build awareness of environmentally friendly technologies and their sustainability. Actual drivers for the Virgin service will be provided by Music Express Inc. in Burbank, CA.

The deal will help the Virgin brand reduce its carbon footprint on the ground, which is an important cornerstone of company's environmental strategy.

"I'd like to thank Sir Richard, for the opportunity for GM to team with Virgin," said Larry Burns. "Given his strong environmental record and deep commitment to innovation, GM sees this partnership as an important endorsement of our fuel cell and electric vehicle technology, and an important new avenue for demonstrating the new DNA of the automobile."

"Our mission to be the sustainable airline is clear, both on the ground and in the air. Partnerships such as this with General Motors show that we are pioneering in the aviation industry when it comes to reducing emissions at every stage of our passengers' journey," said Sir Richard Branson.

Enabled by GM's fourth-generation hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system, the Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicle is a fully functional crossover vehicle. During the Project Driveway test, consumers in suburban Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C. will drive more than 100 of these vehicles for three months and report their experiences to Chevrolet. The drivers have free use of the vehicles, including the hydrogen fuel it needs to make electricity onboard as well as insurance, in exchange for their valuable feedback. A small number of the Project Driveway vehicles will also be deployed to other parts of the world, including Germany and Asia.

"This is a great partnership," said Chevrolet General Manager Ed Peper. "Sir Richard Branson and the Virgin Brand are globally-recognized and this business partnership is an important piece of the Project Driveway program. We will learn a great deal from the Virgin team."

Aside from its dramatically different propulsion system, the Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicle looks and drives much like a production Chevy Equinox crossover. The fuel cell system fits within the space of the conventional engine compartment. The nickel-metal hydride battery pack, which stores energy from the regenerative braking system to increase operating efficiency and boost acceleration when needed, sits under the floor in the middle of the vehicle. Three compressed hydrogen storage tanks, made of carbon fiber for strength and pressurized to 10,000 pounds per square inch (psi), are located under the rear seats and cargo area. They contain roughly nine pounds (4.2 kg) of hydrogen. The Equinox fuel cell has a range of approximately 150 miles ( km) when fully fueled.

Outside, the Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicle fascia sports Chevy's horizontally split grille, along with extra cooling air inlets in the lower front corners. At the rear, the new fascia under the bumper has four thin vertical slits in place of the exhaust pipe; they release the clean water vapor emissions. This patented design lets onlookers know that this is no ordinary internal combustion engine vehicle.

The Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle boasts a long list of standard safety features including driver and passenger frontal air bags and roof rail side-impact air bags; anti-lock braking system (ABS); StabiliTrak stability enhancement technology and OnStar.

[Source: GM and Virgin]

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