The town of Honeoye Falls, NY, got a jolt on October 5, when General Motors announced it would be closing down its fuel-cell research facility there. The 220 GM employees were given the opportunity to move to Pontiac, MI, where GM will be consolidating its fuel cell program to capitalize on "synergies" with the automaker's Global Powertrain Engineering headquarters.

It's a real loss for Honeoye Falls, near Rochester, NY, which was counting on having skilled, high-paid employees living in the area. It had been cited by local officials and business leaders as an example of how well things were going for the area's high-tech business.

From GM's perspective, it makes sense to consolidate operations to continue its focus on electric vehicles and fuel cells. Fuel cell vehicles are lagging behind electric vehicles in product planning, but GM has been fascinated with this technology for years. Its first efforts began in 1969, and more attention was given to the technology staring in the late 1990s.

GM's fuel cell chief, Charlie Freese, thinks fuel cell vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell version, could be viable commercially by 2015 or 2016. Like other alternative vehicle technologies, though, fuel cell vehicles needs a lot more work first, mostly in improved infrastructure and becoming more cost competitive.

GM knows its competitors will be releasing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, too, but Freese says the automaker has not announced any new programs. It's going to take a few years for commercial fuel cell vehicles to be a reality for GM. "The first generation of these cars won't be profitable," Freese said.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 22 Comments
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      2015! Believe.
        Dave
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        Scary headline. But the real story is that GM leased the space and they will be saving money by leaving it. And they'll be moving the fuel cell operation closer to their main engineering operations.
          krona2k
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          Synergy is great, but leverage would be even better.
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          Promotin' synergy Like a Boss!
          Dave
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          "Most of the 220 salaried workers in Honeoye Falls, N.Y., will be offered the chance to move to GM's global powertrain engineering headquarters in suburban Detroit. The move will enable GM to capitalize on "synergies" with the rest of the powertrain and vehicle organizations, a GM spokeswoman said today. GM will continue to focus on electric vehicles and fuel cell development, she said." http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20121005/OEM05/121009924
        EZEE
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        Now don't go being a wet blanket....
      Letstakeawalk
      • 2 Years Ago
      GM is taking necessary steps to improve their own internal Fuel Cell program, so this is good news. On a global note: "National network organisations within Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark have actively worked for the establishment and planning of hydrogen refuelling stations since 2006, under the Scandinavian Hydrogen Highway Partnership(SHHP). The infrastructure companies HYOP AS (Norway), H2 Logic A/S (Denmark) and others have invested significantly since 2006 in the opening of several hydrogen refuelling stations within the countries and are actively preparing plans for countrywide networks beyond 2015. The rich variety of renewable energy sources in the Nordic countries also provides a strong case for sustainable hydrogen production, which in turn can help storing and balancing even higher shares of fluctuating renewable electricity in the Nordic power grids." http://www.bloomberg.com/article/2012-10-10/aNI.aR.vDsKU.html
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        Yeah, this move is just a smart move. It has nothing to do with what technology they are researching. This is non-news.
        Letstakeawalk
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        Reading further, it seems this decision had a bit to do with not wanting to renew a lease (up in Feb) and having plenty of room available in Michigan. There's also the relatively unfavorable business climate in NY - high taxes and high costs of doing business. "Fast Facts: 1999: Opened Fuel Cell R&D Center in Honeoye Falls (10 Carriage Street) 2002: Opened Fuel Cell Product Engineer and Prototype build facility (11 Carriage Street) 2009: Added Battery R&D capability Two facilities make up the Honeoye Falls Fuel Cell Campus with on site capability for materials development and integration, engineering development, controls and software development, as well as prototyping of complete Fuel Cell and Battery Systems"
      NY EVO X MR GUY
      • 2 Years Ago
      NY loses another business. Soon, NY will be the only state with no businesses.
      Giza Plateau
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why not close both while they're at it.. it's going to close anyway. They know HFC will never be.
      Rick
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ah them new fangled Model-T Fords will never catch on they don't have any gas stations in the US, l think goodoldgorr will still need keep trigger the horse.
      goodoldgorr
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's silly to plan to lunch a hydrogen vehicle in 2015 and not preparing a hydrogen infrastructure at the same time. What will happen when they start selling these hydrogen fuelcell trucks and/or cars, where they gonna refuel them and how and at what cost per kilogram of compressed hydrogen. They should do some studies in hydrogen production without pollution and at low cost. Up to now nobody have made a breakthru in hydrogen production except maybe some labs that i heard in greencarcongress website. I suggest to them to start building a small integrated water electrolyzer put inside the fuelcell vehicle and we do the hydrogen with water while travelling or park. With an efficient water electrolyzer we can fill-up any hydrogen tanks in a short time. The water exhaust vapor leaving the fuelcell can be cool down and we recirculate this exhaust back to the water tank. Arizona and sahara travellers will rush to buy this vehicle that resist to heat and also alaskian drivers will appreciate abondant heat inside the car and no need to go outside the car for refueling.
        Chris M
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        "It's silly to plan to lunch a hydrogen vehicle in 2015 and not preparing a hydrogen infrastructure at the same time. " Why, I think he's got it! "I suggest to them to start building a small integrated water electrolyzer put inside the fuelcell vehicle and we do the hydrogen with water while travelling or park. " Oh, OK, maybe not. What powers that water electrolyzer? Electricity. And how much electricity does it need? Well, considering that a well designed electrolyzer is about 60% efficient, and a good PEM fuel cell is about 50% efficient, that gives an overall efficiency of 30% (this ignores the energy used for compression for storage - we're assuming that won't be necessary) That means about 3x more electrical energy going into the electrolyzer than comes out of the fuel cell, and 70% of the energy wasted as heat. Obviously, we can't get that electricity from the fuel cell, so that leaves us with plugging in or batteries. Plugging in would work, but would take a very long time to recharge, much longer than batteries would take - batteries are 85% efficient, so batteries wouldn't require nearly as much electrical energy in to get the same amount of electrical energy out. Using batteries to run an electrolyzer is just plain silly, not only would it involve unnecessary extra cost and weight, but it means throwing away 70% of the energy stored in the battery. Better to use that battery power directly.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Chris M
          Plain Silly = Responding to Gorr. Come on people. Sheesh.
          Spec
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Chris M
          The fact that gorr is one of the few fuel cells fans should cause you to question things.
          Dave
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Chris M
          Meh. Hydrogen has Gorr. Batteries have Dan Fredericksen.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        As a over-skilled automotive engineer (and overpaid) these comments make me smile. I have been part of fuel cell research and analysis for years. In addition to actually building vehicles that beget the infrastructure. We are simply providing a disruption to the marketplace. TMGTFY fuel cell research and you'll see that you've been living in the dark. An if you're the yahoo that keeps calling my office trying to sell me an on-board H2 generator, please stop. Call the guy with the car that runs on water, or the guy with the perpetual motion machine.
        Rick
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        It's the chicken and the egg problem what comes first, you have gotta make a start from somewhere as a lotta hydrogen stations without a hydrogen car would not as well. I bet you great Granddad rode a horse, ah Henry Fords Model-T motorised horse will never catch on, "No market for a Model-T" US has no gas station infrastructure. Mmmm.
          Spec
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rick
          The egg came first.
        Rick
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        What came first the chicken or the egg, you have gotta start from somewhere. UK boffin will have hydrogen polymer based fuel beads up and running soon, that should give create a some hydrogen demand for filling stations once it gets established their will come the desire fore a proper hydrogen infrastructure, that is less volatile than gasoline, safer to transport than gasoline it can even run a Model T on it without a conversion, making the Model T cleaner than a Prius how kool is that? $0.28 cents litre fuel with nothing but water coming out of the tailpipe of a model-T http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/news/article-1711690/19p-a-litre-The-eco-fuel-for-cars.html GM are already thinking about a hydrogen van plants in the UK http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/markets/article-2089886/Vauxhalls-factory-Luton-world-leader-hydrogen-vans.html GM Vauxhall vans will probably be using home plant based independant hydrogen charging station that cost as little as £2,000 will fuel up a fleet of vans instantly then you get hydrogen for half the price of gasoline using cheap electricity being the only cost to power the plant based station. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1033683/Fill-car--home-hydrogen-fuel-station.html
      Rick
      • 2 Years Ago
      When fossil fuels run out run hydrogen has the ability to pick up where the oil burners left off, fill ups are the same time, the carry on with the same good point to point drive with out range anxiety & expensive battery replacements every seven years. Good to see GM have got all bases covered.
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