GM Looking to Partner with China On Fuel Cell Vehicles

China sees fuel cell vehicles as way of reducing oil imports

Published: 25-Dec-2003

uto giant General Motors (GM) Tuesday introduced its
environmentally-friendly fuel cell technology to China, hoping to sound out
the government on a multi-billion dollar commitment to set up infrastructure
for the fledgling technology.

GM rolled out prototypes of its fuel cell technology and wheel-hub electric
motors for journalists Tuesday and on Wednesday China's planning czar, Vice
Premier Zeng Peiyan, is expected to test drive the vehicles.

"Petroleum dependency is growing in China. China is on the verge of becoming
the world's second largest petroleum importer," Phil Murtaugh, chairman of
GM China Group, told journalists.

As China is expected to import up to 50 percent of its petroleum needs by
2010, "there really is no place in which this technology is more relevant or
the opportunities greater than China," he said.

By seeking alternative energy vehicles, China could reduce its dependency on
foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution, he said.

Fuel cell vehicles are powered by electricity generated by a chemical
reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in a power plant built into the car's
chassis.

The electricity generated can drive newly developed electrical engines that
can perform similar to gasoline engines while only emitting water vapor as a
by-product.

The new vehicles are part of GM's "hydrogen-based economy" plan with the
auto giant vowing to become the first manufacturer to produce one million
fuel cell-powered vehicles.

Mass production, however, is only being targeted for 2010, when company
officials hope that costs for the vehicle's power train will be roughly
5,000 dollars for a 100 kilowatt vehicle, or a price commercially viable for
a power train of a conventional car with similar capacities.

"The fact that Zeng Peiyan is going to come to take a look at these vehicles
is a sign that China is very interested in this and very supportive of the
work that General Motors is doing," Murtaugh said.

"To move forward it is going to take a very close cooperation between the
auto industry, the energy industry and governments around the world."

Besides the car itself, China would need to produce hydrogen -- the fuel for
the car -- as well as set up a distribution infrastructure for selling the
fuel.

According to Wang Hongwei, an official at the hydrogen division of Shell
China, the cost to set up a hydrogen distribution infrastructure capable of
reaching 25 percent of China's retail gas stations would cost between 6.0
and 19 billion dollars.

"This is still a very rough estimate because we still don't know a lot about
how such a system would be set up; for example would you need to build
pipelines," Wang said.

"As far as producing hydrogen, this would be no big deal for China because
it is already producing hydrogen from coal and at fertilizer plants."

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