GM's Long and Winding Road
GM chose the Detroit motor show this week to exhibit its latest hydrogen-fuelled prototype, a descendant of the Hy-wire - the company's first model unveiled in 2002.
The company has invested heavily in researching hydrogen cell technology and in August 2004 gave its backing to a European scheme to test fuel cell infrastructure and support systems. Such is the conviction in the benefits of hydrogen that GM's senior management believes the entire future of the global automotive industry will be based around the fuel. However there is little doubt that such a bold approach represents something of a gamble for the company.
The US automaker accepts that the shift to hydrogen-powered cars will be bridged by hybrid vehicles that have an electric motor along with a combustion engine. Essentially, hybrids, of which over 80,000 were sold in the US in 2004, are more closely related to conventional automobiles since they use internal combustion to provide much of their motive power. The benefit with an entirely hydrogen-powered car is that the only by-product is water vapour, formed when the hydrogen protons are combined with oxygen.
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