Even through bankruptcy proceedings, General Motors did not abandon its fuel cell vehicle (FCV) program. And now that the overall company is back on track, more progress is being announced inside of Project Driveway. There was a hint of this as last week I received an email saying there would be a big Project Driveway announcement this week.
The big announcement is that GM has come up with a next generation hydrogen fuel cell for FCVs that is supposed to be “production-intent”. This new fuel cell is 220 lbs lighter than the previous fuel cell and uses 1/3 less platinum.
So far in the Project Driveway program, GM has built 119 of the 200 promised Chevy Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles, logging over 1.3 million miles. One of the sticking points that GM has not addressed however, is the life expectancy of the new fuel cell.
The fuel cell used in current and previous versions of the Chevy Equinox Fuel Cell had a life expectancy of around 50,000 miles, which is far short of the 150,000 to 200,000 mile life expectancy for which many hydrogen car producers are striving.
The projected 2015 price tag on the new generation production intent fuel cell has not been disclosed. But, it would be a safe bet to say that changing out this fuel cell is going to be more expensive than swapping out an internal combustion engine, or a lithium ion battery pack on a hybrid car.
So, what GM needs to do with its fuel cells within this next 5 years, is lower costs, use less or no platinum, extend the life expectance to at least 150,000 miles or above and continue to push for more H2 refueling infrastructure to be built by 2015 to support the production of its FCVs.
If the research and development achieved in the last 5 years is any indicator, then these goals are very do-able.