31 May 2007 - 12:29
  • News Code: 106017

General Motors believes its Sequel SUV fuelcell vehicles set a world record last week when each was driven 480 kilometres on a tank of hydrogen on public roads.

The idea of the drive: to prove GM’s fuelcell vehicle is a viable possibility for everyday transportation and do it in New York, one of the markets that’s been the most critical of the fuel economy of GM’s truck-heavy fleet.

“This is a very significant event to us,“ says Larry Burns, GM’s vice-president of research, development and planning. “Our goal was to go [480 kilometers] because that is what our customers tell us they need. This is a vehicle that can carry four or five passengers, but this is also a vehicle that emits just water. We are in the infancy of a whole new automobile.“

GM scheduled the drive as it works to re-establish a reputation as a leader in new vehicle technologies. The event came amid rising gas prices and rising concern about the greenhouse gases linked to global warming in the wake of former US vice president Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth and last year’s documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?

GM’s fuelcell drive also came a week after the automaker announced its membership in a partnership of businesses and environmental groups lobbying for the cap and trade of emissions and just a day after US President George W. Bush announced plans to increase vehicle fuel economy standards by the end of 2008 and reduce US dependence on fossil fuels.

“Given what is going on in America and elsewhere in the world today, it’s urgent that we solve these problems,“ Burns said after completing the drive from Rochester to Westchester County.

And the successful completion of the drive gave GM’s top alternative propulsion engineers confidence that fuel cell vehicles will have a role in the future of the automotive industry as soon as the next decade.

“We drove [489 km] and still have more than one kilogram of hydrogen left in each vehicle,“ a relieved Christopher Borroni- Bird said after both Sequels made it to the finish line. “We probably could go another [70 or 80 km].“

The Sequel is GM’s fourth generation fuel cell vehicle. It’s the predecessor to the fuel cell technology GM showed off in its Chevrolet Volt concept car last month in Shanghai, China.

The Sequel holds the same fuel cell technology as the 100 Chevrolet Equinox vehicles that GM plans to put on the roads later this year under the control of average drivers in metro New York City, Washington, D.C., and the Los Angeles area, three regions known for being particularly critical of GM’s lineup of fuel-thirsty trucks and for their heavy influence in US trends and policy.

Burns says it’s to be expected that there would still be skeptics about a new technology being able to compete with one--the internal combustion engine--that hasn’t changed much for more than 100 years.

GM is working toward having a production-ready vehicle that could run with either a fuel cell propulsion system or a lithium battery-run system as early as 2010.

“I’d rather be trying to solve that challenge with batteries than saying, ’Aw, it’s not going to happen,’“ Burns says. “It’s a lot more fun to be part of trying to find a solution. My hope is you are going to be able to say, ’I was there when the automobile was reinvented and proven.“’



News Code 106017

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