GM Shows Smaller, Lighter and Cheaper Gen 2 Fuel Cell Setup

Shortly after announcing that its Project Driveway test fleet of fuel cell-powered Chevy Equinoxes had passed the million-mile evaluation benchmark, General Motors took the wraps off of its new Gen 2 hydrogen fuel cell system. Designed by GM, this updated package is half the size, requires 50 percent less precious metals to construct, and is 220 pounds lighter than the hardware currently in use. Now shrunk to roughly the same dimensions as a conventional four-cylinder gasoline engine, the system is based around GM's fifth-generation fuel cell "stack," a core element the automaker thinks could be commercialized as early as 2015.

According to 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." However, Freese also recognizes that it will require more than just technical advances to bring the technology to market. "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." While numerous interested parties are continuing to make real progress in that critical area, a far more intensive effort will be needed to create anything even approaching the fabled "Hydrogen Highway."

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