Autos: General Motors, Honda partner on fuel cells | Indianapolis Star |

22 Aug 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Autos: General Motors, Honda partner on fuel cells | Indianapolis Star |
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In 2008, I attend a Chevrolet preview in Chicago and drove a blue and white Equinox crossover. Compared to any previous Equinox I had driven, it was incredibly smooth, refined, and quiet. Only water vapor came out of the tailpipe.

Of course, it wasn’t a typical Equinox. It was one of General Motor’s “Project Driveway” hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles that were being loaned to private citizens for evaluation.

This turned out to be my first preview of the Chevrolet Volt’s drivetrain also. The electric systems are similar. The only difference is the Volt draws electricity from batteries while the Equinox created it on-board.

GM had been working on fuel cell vehicles since the early 1960s, notably with the 1966 Electrovan and a series of concepts during the late ’90s and ’00s. GM launched Project Driveway in 2007 and has since logged nearly 3 million miles in a fleet of 119 vehicles.

Honda also is deep in fuel cell and electric car development.

It has leased 85 of the FCX and FCX Clarity, sleek sedans that look like a scaled-up Insight hybrid, since 2002. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis famously tested one. A new model is planned for 2015.

GM, Honda work together

Given their combined experience, it made sense for the two automakers to join forces to develop the next generation of fuel cell technologies. That partnership was announced July 2.

“This collaboration builds upon Honda and GM’s strengths as leaders in hydrogen fuel cell technology,” said Dan Akerson, GM chairman and CEO. “We are convinced this is the best way to develop this important technology, which has the potential to help reduce the dependence on petroleum and establish sustainable mobility.”

Takanobu Ito, president CEO of Honda Motor Co. commented, “Among all zero-CO2 emission technologies, fuel cell electric vehicles have a definitive advantage with range and refueling time that is as good as conventional gasoline cars. Honda and GM are eager to accelerate the market penetration of this ultimate clean mobility technology.”

How fuel cell technology works

Fuel cell technology is nothing new. It was used on the Apollo missions to the moon.

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The system converts hydrogen to electricity, which drives an electric powertrain. The only exhaust is water vapor. Of course, hydrogen has to be gathered or created, and that is rarely a perfectly clean exercise.

Despite myths surrounding the Hindenburg, hydrogen can be safely stored, fueled and converted.

A big plus: We are never going to run out of it.

Fuel cell vehicles travel up to 400 miles per tank and can be refueled in 3 minutes. While fuel cells will not be the only way to power a car in the future, they will become an alternative.

The barrier to our hydrogen future has nothing to do with vehicle technology — automakers are well down the road. The issues are in distribution.

Hydrogen is more difficult to transport, and oil companies, despite good wishes, are thoroughly entrenched in fossils. Let’s see how Honda and GM partner through that one.

Send your car questions to Casey Williams at .

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