GM makes big push into hydrogen fuel cells

As well as EV systems, GM now is push the development of fuel cell technology. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
As well as EV systems, GM is now pushing the development of fuel cell technology. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

US automaker General Motors (GM) is reportedly diversifying its tech development as part of a push into the hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle (FCV) market.

Continuing an earlier collaboration GM, allegedly plans to work together with Japanese automaker Honda on a joint fuel-cell vehicle factory.

While neither company has confirmed or denied these plans, the Asahi Shimbun has reported the factory will be open by 2025 and will aim to produce fuel cell drive trains at significantly reduced prices.

For its part, Honda will release its first FCV to the market the – 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell – in spring this year.

Another major development by GM in the FCV space was an announcement late last year that it would partner with the US Army to produce a prototype all-terrain fuel-cell reconnaissance vehicle.

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The military vehicle will be produced for the US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center according to Automotive News.

GM hopes that the experience gained from developing this vehicle will help them in the future production of heavier FCV systems.

Diversified options for GM’s future

FCVs are cars which run on an electric motor powered by an electro-chemical device which converts hydrogen into electricty and which produces only water as a by-product. As such they are seen as a zero-emissions technology which can rival battery electric production. But of course, like electricity, the hydrogen must first be produced, which takes considerable energy using current techniques or during which greenhouse gasses are emitted.

GM had previously focused on the battery-electric Bolt and Volt models, however it is now seeking to diversify its zero-emissions options into the future.

Such diversification is apparent in a recent name change within the company, whereby GM Powertrain was renamed to GM Global Propulsion Systems, with the goal to encompass a number of new low emissions technologies, including EV and FCV systems.

“Gone are the days when a gasoline engine and a transmission designed independently meet a customer’s expectations. [..] The diversity of our propulsion systems requires a name that reflects what we are already working on and delivering to our customers,” said Dan Nicholson, vice president, GM Global Propulsion Systems.

By not focusing on a particular technology, GM will be able to easily adapt without risking its market position should either EVs or FCVs become vast more popular.