Innovation has no secret for GM and after tapping into hybrid and electric engine technologies, fuel-cell is its next target.
In an interview with Trucks.com, GM’s global fuel-cell business director Charles Freese seemed confident that hydrogen will become a next big step in transportation.
General Motors has been involved in fuel-cell technology for a little more than 50 years now.
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In 1966, the automaker introduced the Electrovan prototype that became the first hydrogen fuel-cells vehicle on the road.
The Electrovan was followed by the Hy-wire concept introduced in 2002, then by the Project Driveway program that put more than 100 fuel-cell Chevrolet Equinox in driveways across the United States starting in 2007.
Since the 1990s, the company has invested $2.5 billion into fuel-cell research and development.
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This year, GM and Honda joined forces on a joint production plant, and Chevrolet launched the ZH2 program, the next step for GM toward bringing the technology to the market.
A fleet of hydrogen fuel-cell Chevrolet Colorado mid-size pickup trucks will be put to the test and this time, the U.S. Army will be doing the field testing.
Freese explained that the ZH2 program will evaluate hydrogen as a fuel for heavy, off-road-capable vehicles, which will provide further insight into its capabilities.
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As the fuel-cell system is optimized, it can easily be adapted to different types of vehicles.
The program will also leverage the Army’s need for a stealthy, long-range vehicle without a combustion engine—with the side benefits of use as an electric generator in the field and even producing (some) drinkable water.
Asked about the GM and Honda joint venture, Freese said that both companies shared their portfolios of intellectual property on hydrogen fuel cells and have now fully integrated their development teams.
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They are building a production plant in Brownstown, Michigan, for next-generation fuel-cell propulsion systems that will be used in vehicles of both brands.
While the 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell sedan arrived on the California market last December, GM has yet to share any plans for a volume-produced fuel-cell vehicle.
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And when it comes to hydrogen, the sky’s the limit, according to Freese.
Beyond personal—and military—transportation, he can foresee fuel-cell technology used for air and sea applications as well, such as in aircraft.
— Sabrina Giacomini