Fleet News

Fleets in forefront of hydrogen car tests

FLEETS will be the first to operate hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles, the world's biggest car maker General Motors has revealed. The firm made the commitment as it unveiled its latest test model designed to bring emission-free motoring a step closer.

Greg Ruselowski, GM's director of finance, planning and infrastructure, fuel cell activities, says that when GM launches the hydrogen-powered car, fleets will be its first port of call. He said: 'Fleet is where we want to start. We have already been talking to about 100 fleet customers about what they need.'

Fleets will be encouraged to adopt bunkered fuel facilities at first until a wider hydrogen network is established and GM, including its subsidiary Vauxhall in the UK, will be looking to lease the cars to fleets.

Ruselowski was speaking as the company allowed journalists behind the wheel of its new Hy-wire fuel cell car, a £3 million prototype showing how the company views the future of the car.

The vehicle is a radical rethink of car design, based on a six-inch deep 'skateboard' in which fuel cell, hydrogen storage, control systems and electric motors are housed.

This creates a flat base on which any kind of car platform can be placed.

The car first appeared as the AUTOnomy concept at the North American International Motor Show in January and it has taken less than a year to produce a full road-going version. It uses fly-by-wire technology, so there is no mechanical link between the 'skateboard' and vehicle controls.

Acceleration, braking and steering are all managed through a hand-operated driver control unit.

Larry Burns, vice-president for research, development and planning at GM, believes fuel cell cars could be in production by 2005, and that there could be 'convincing and affordable fuel cell vehicles by the end of the decade'. GM already has 90bhp fuel cell Zafiras with a range of 250 miles.

Western governments are particularly keen that hydrogen fuel cells become the standard method of power generation, GM claimed. The only emissions are steam or water, which means cutting pollution and greenhouse gases. But perhaps more importantly, hydrogen is the most abundant element on Earth.

It can be produced in a number of ways, from reforming natural gas and oil, through to using renewable energy such as wind and solar power. Being able to extract hydrogen in such ways would mean the West reduces its dependence on Middle Eastern oil. The company claims that eventually fuel cells will power almost everything, including homes and offices. At the moment, electronic giant Sony is even developing a fuel cell- powered mobile phone.

  • See Fleet NewsNet next week for a first drive of GM's Hy-wire and the rest of its fuel cell range.
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