With GM's 2011 Chevrolet Volt now in pre-production and due to launch in November 2010, Former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz fully supports range-extended electric vehicles but remains doubtful of the near future of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
In an interview with GM-Volt.com before his retirement, the 78-year-old veteran of the automotive industry shared his thoughts on the future of both electric and hydrogen fuel celled vehicles.
Lutz remains a fan of the concept of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, but he cited high cost as prohibitive to their current commercial success.
"We're getting very close to solving the cost equation to where one could start thinking about mass producing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles at a semi reasonable price. Way more than lithium-ion batteries, I'm sorry to say . But coming down from astronomical figures to merely very high figures."
2011 Chevrolet Volt pre-production prototype, January 2010
He expects that expansion of the existing electric-vehicle charging network could be done rapidly, relatively easily, and with a fairly low investment.
"...getting high pressure hydrogen everywhere is a different story. That involves hundreds of millions of dollars...I don't see that happening anytime soon."
gm hydrogen4 fuel cell vehicle 011
Anytime soon, in this case, means five to ten years at least.
While many EV fans still vehemently attack Lutz over GM's crushing of its EV-1 electric cars a decade ago, he has been outspoken for some years now about the future of electric vehicles.
When the Volt concept was first shown at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show, Lutz recalled that his colleagues at GM who envisioned a completely fuel-cell future were particularly difficult to win over.
"There was some resentment from the fuel-cell backers inside the company...they thought they would be the ones to transform the planet."
Lutz conceded that at some point in the future, hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles could prove viable competition to electric vehicles, but only when technological and economic problems have been overcome.
The 2011 Chevrolet Volt is expected to be well-received by the general public, many of whom are fearful of buying a pure electric vehicle and suffer some degree of range anxiety.
The 2011 Volt will feature a 40 mile all-electric range plus an on-board range-extending gasoline engine. It is expected that many consumers will never need to use the range-extender for daily use, using the engine only on longer distance trips or during the weekend.