BURBANK, CA - General Motors Co. said it is testing a production-intent hydrogen fuel cell system that can be packaged in the space of a traditional four-cylinder engine and be ready for commercial production in 2015.
The system is half the size, 220 pounds lighter and uses about a third of the platinum of the system in the Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicles used in Project Driveway.
The Project Driveway market test and demonstration fleet of fuel cell electric vehicles began in late 2007 and has amassed nearly 1.3 million miles of everyday driving in cities around the world.
"Our learning from Project Driveway has been tremendous and these vehicles have been very important to our program," Charles Freese, executive director of GM's global fuel cell activities, told reporters Tuesday at a news briefing on GM's fuel cell progress. "The 30 months we committed to the demonstration are winding down, but we will keep upgrades of these vehicles running and will continue learning from them while we focus efforts on the production-intent program for 2015."
Some of the 119 fuel cell electric vehicles in Project Driveway will receive hardware and software upgrades and will become part of a technology demonstration program with the U.S. Department of Energy. Others will be driven by businesses and a few will be used to continue showing that, with proper fueling infrastructure, hydrogen fuel cells are a viable alternative to gasoline-powered vehicles, Freese said.
"We will continue to use the Project Driveway fleet strategically to advance fuel cell technology, hydrogen infrastructure, and GM's vehicle electrification goals," Freese added.
The first long-term loan of the new-look Chevy fuel cell vehicle will be to Stephanie White, a fuel cell advocate who was among the first Project Driveway participants and regularly blogs about zero-pollution fuel cells. Freese presented White with the keys to the car on Tuesday.
"Driving the Chevy fuel cell around L.A. has been an amazing experience," White said. "People are always stopping me to ask questions about the vehicle and I tell them how powerful and eco-friendly it is."