General Motors’ fleet of fuel cell vehicles recently clocked up over three million miles (4.8 million km) of hydrogen-powered, real world driving. Some of the fleet have accumulated more than 120,000 miles (193,000 km). They are all part of GM’s large-scale "Project Driveway", a program involving 119 test vehicles worldwide used in everyday driving by customers which started in 2007. More than 5,000 drivers have so far provided feedback on the functionality and drivability of fuel cell technology.
“Hydrogen fuel cell technology is an important part of GM’s advanced propulsion portfolio and we continue to make substantial progress in furthering this technology,” says Charlie Freese, Executive Director of GM’s global fuel cell engineering activities. “These vehicles have operated through seven full winters and in a wide range of environmental conditions, proving that fuel cells can meet the real world demands of drivers.”
30 Opel HydroGen4 vehicles on the road in four cities
Opel has been participating in this GM global fleet test since the end of 2008 with a total of 30 Opel HydroGen4 vehicles. They have been run in Germany within the framework of the Clean Energy Partnership (CEP), a publicly funded research program for hydrogen technology by the German government. The Opel vehicles have been operated by many partner companies -- such as 3M, ADAC, Air Liquide, Allianz, Bild, Coca Cola, Condor, E‑Plus, ESWE, Hilton, IKEA, Linde, Neckermann, nh Hotels, Schindler, Siemens, Shell, Total and Vattenfall -- and have covered a total of more than 350,000 kilometers during 13,000 hours of operation in the cities of Berlin, Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt, including 2,700 refueling stops.
"All of the feedback from customers on HydroGen4 has been positive, surpassing by far our wildest expectations,” says Dr. Lars Peter Thiesen, who has been overseeing the introduction strategy for hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles in Europe for several years. “The great reliability of the vehicles, especially in winter conditions, and the excellent service from our fuel cell team has been repeatedly emphasized,"
Close collaboration between GM and Honda
Last year, GM announced two fuel cell-related collaborations. In July 2013, GM and Honda launched a long-term program to co-develop next-generation fuel cell and hydrogen storage systems, aiming for potential commercialization by 2020. In addition, GM and Honda are working together with stakeholders to further advance refueling infrastructures, which is critical for the long-term viability and consumer acceptance of fuel cell vehicles.
Research and development at the highest level
Last year GM also opened a new, state-of-the-art Fuel Cell Development Laboratory at GM Powertrain’s global headquarters in Pontiac, Michigan, U.S. As part of GM’s worldwide fuel cell activities, engineers in Rüsselsheim have now assumed responsibility for the further development of storage systems, contributing experience gained during the European market test to the global development process.
GM is an acknowledged leader in fuel cell technology. According to The Clean Energy Patent Growth Index, GM ranked No. 1 in total fuel cell patents granted in 2013, and it continues to lead all companies in total fuel cell patents issued since 2002.
Environment-friendly technology without compromise
Fuel cell technology offers solutions to a number of major challenges currently confronting the automotive industry: independence from petroleum, vehicle emissions, efficiency, driving range and refueling times (compared to pure electric vehicles).
Fuel cell vehicles are powered by hydrogen, which is produced from renewable energy sources, and their only emission is water vapor. They provide further benefits: they are quiet and clean due to their electric operation, they have a driving range similar to conventional vehicles and can be refueled in around three minutes. The drive-line technology is equally suited to small, medium or large vehicle applications.