GM Demonstrates Two Fuel Cell Vehicles

GM shows Zafira-based fuel cell compact van and early Electrovan at inauguration of California Fuel Cell Partnership center.

Published: 01-Nov-2000

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif., Nov. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- General Motors (NYSE: GM) displayed its commitment to developing cleaner, more environmentally sound vehicles today by showcasing the latest advances coming from its world-class fuel cell program.

GM showed off two vehicles -- one representing the future of fuel cell development and another highlighting GM's longtime leadership in fuel cell technology -- at the grand opening of the California Fuel Cell Partnership headquarters located in West Sacramento, Calif. In doing so, GM laid out a roadmap to a future where cleaner hydrogen-powered fuel cell systems may succeed the internal combustion engine in the vehicles the public will buy and drive.

"GM continues to pioneer fundamental technologies that make a difference to society and the environment," said Harry J. Pearce, GM Vice Chairman. "Fuel cell technology is as important to our future as were the introduction of catalytic converters, on-board diagnostics and the electric drive propulsion system. These are just a few examples of where GM moved technology from the lab to the road. Even more, the fuel cell will revolutionize power generation; not just for automobiles, but for homes, businesses, and virtually every power need."

GM displayed the HydroGen1, its latest road-going hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle. The HydroGen1 is a five-seat concept vehicle, based on Opel's Zafira compact van. It is powered by a 75-horsepower electric motor supplied with current from a fuel cell unit that runs on pure hydrogen. It has a top speed of nearly 90 miles per hour and a range of about 250 miles per tank of hydrogen.

The fuel cell in the HyroGen1 produces no pollutant emissions.

The HydroGen1 demonstrates GM's expertise in fuel cell development and moves closer to the goal of launching reasonably priced fuel cell vehicles this decade, as well as its commitment to producing cars that help protect the environment. By bringing the vehicle to the U.S., GM has now run the HydroGen1 thousands of miles on four continents this year. It was developed by GM's Global Alternative Propulsion Center, a team of internationally renowned fuel cell and electric drive experts.

Today's display is the latest achievement in GM's impressive history of fuel cell research and development. In 1966, GM became the first automaker to demonstrate a driveable fuel cell vehicle. GM brought this vehicle, called the "Electrovan," to today's event to highlight generations of advancements in fuel cell technology. The Electrovan had liquid hydrogen and oxygen fuel tanks, a range of 150 miles and a top speed of 70 miles per hour.

The Electrovan program demonstrated GM's early interest in developing fuel cell vehicles for commercial use, but it also uncovered the many obstacles that would ultimately take three decades to overcome. These included the need for improved electronics, breakthroughs in electrochemistry, and the introduction of new materials. GM researchers and engineers have developed innovations in these and many other areas, leading to the development of the most powerful Proton Electron Membrane (PEM) fuel cell stack claimed by any fuel cell maker, advancements in gasoline fuel processing for fuel cell systems, and an industry first -- the ability to draw power from a frozen fuel cell stack (-40 degrees Celsius).

"Zero emission mobility is the goal for the future," said Dr. J. Byron McCormick, General Motors, director, Global Alternative Propulsion Center. "Fuel cell technology has the potential to best utilize hydrogen as the fuel for our personal and commercial transportation needs worldwide. Given the rate of fuel cell technology development from GM's global team, I believe that fuel cell vehicles could be affordable and widely available near the end of this decade."

GM recently joined the California Fuel Cell Partnership, which is made up of auto manufacturers, oil and energy companies, fuel cell developers, and government agencies. The Partnership plans to place more than 70 fuel cell passenger cars and fuel cell buses on California roads by 2003.

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