Although it’s still nowhere near ready for mass production, General Motors’ second-generation hydrogen fuel cell system does seem to be an improvement over its predecessors.
“The improvements the team has been able to achieve are remarkable,” said Charles Freese, executive director of GM’s fuel cell activities. “Hardware mechanization has been dramatically simplified, which will help reduce cost, simplify manufacturing, and improve durability.”
Specifics on the new stack are presently limited, but GM does say the new system — shown above — is considerably smaller than the experimental units used in the Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell prototypes. The second-gen stack is 50 percent smaller (roughly the size of a four-cylinder engine), 220 pounds lighter, and reduces the use of precious metals in half.
These are important steps in developing fuel cells for widespread use in vehicles, but we’re still a long ways away from seeing hydrogen vehicles — from GM, especially — roll into dealerships across the country. GM hopes to commercialize the latest system by 2015, although it acknowledges it needs some help in order to do so.
“GM has invested more than $1.5 billion in fuel cell technology,” Freese said, “and we are committed to continuing to invest, but we can no longer go it alone.
“As we approach a costly part of the program, we will require government and industry partnerships to install a hydrogen infrastructure and help create a customer pull for the product.”