While improvements to the tried-and-true internal combustion engine continue to come in small, incremental bits year after year, hydrogen fuel cell technology is progressing in leaps and bounds. Evidence of such can be seen in the latest version of General Motors' hydrogen fuel cell system.

At the heart of GM's technology is the automaker's fifth-generation fuel cell stack. As we reported last month when we got a firsthand look at the unit, this stack is half the size, weighs 220 pounds less and uses less than half the precious metals of its immediate predecessor. GM hopes to have this fuel cell stack in commercial use by 2015.

Of course, much more is required than a high quality hydrogen powertrain. Charles Freese, executive director of GM Fuel Cell Activities says:
GM has invested more than $1.5 billion in fuel cell technology and we are committed to continuing to invest, but we no longer can go it alone. As we approach a costly part of the program, we will require government and industry partnerships to install a hydrogen infrastructure and help create a customer pull for the products... Failure to act will insure the U.S. cannot meet its long-term fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction objectivesWe know what needs to be done. Now is the time to get started.
A suitable hydrogen infrastructure and "consumer pull for the products" are really large pieces of the puzzle that no individual automaker can rectify alone. Click past the break for the official press release.


PRESS RELEASE

GM's Gen 2 Fuel Cell System Cuts Size, Weight and Cost


System with 5th Generation Fuel Cell Stack Could Be Commercialized in 2015

Washington, D.C. -- The second generation hydrogen fuel cell system in development by General Motors Co. is half the size, 220 pounds lighter and uses less than half the precious metal of the current generation in the Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicle.

And the production intent fuel cell powertrain can be packaged under the hood in about the same space as a four-cylinder engine. It contains GM's fifth-generation fuel cell stack, which could be commercialized in the 2015 time frame.

"The improvements the team has been able to achieve are remarkable," said Charles Freese, executive director of GM Fuel Cell Activities. "Hardware mechanization has been dramatically simplified, which will help reduce cost, simplify manufacturing and improve durability."

Hydrogen-powered fuel cells are a few years away from widespread commercial use because of the need for additional investment and partnership, along with expanded availability of hydrogen fueling stations.

"GM has invested more than $1.5 billion in fuel cell technology and we are committed to continuing to invest, but we no longer can go it alone," Freese said. "As we approach a costly part of the program, we will require government and industry partnerships to install a hydrogen infrastructure and help create a customer pull for the products."

Through Project Driveway, a demonstration fleet of more than 100 hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric Chevrolet Equinox midsize crossovers has amassed more than 1 million miles of every-day driving by ordinary citizens, celebrities and others since late 2007.

In recent weeks, a consortium of the German government and leading industrial companies has announced plans to build up to 1,000 hydrogen fueling stations by 2015, about the time several automakers expect to have hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for sale. Earlier, a group of 13 oil and gas companies in Japan announced similar plans.

" Failure to act will insure the U.S. cannot meet its long-term fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction objectives," Freese said. "We know what needs to be done. Now is the time to get started."


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