California Gov. Schwarzenegger opened a hydrogen fueling station at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) on Friday, rolling into the station in a prototype H2ICE Hummer prototype—the H2H—loaned by GM.
The H2H is an internal combustion engine (ICE) HUMMER H2 SUT (Sport Utility Truck) converted to burn gaseous hydrogen fuel. The truck uses a supercharged version of the truck’s original Vortec 6000 (6.0-liter V-8).
“The H2H was created for two purposes,” said Elizabeth Lowery, GM vice president, Environment & Energy. “It brings focus and attention to the journey to a hydrogen economy, and it will provide GM with key learnings on hydrogen storage, hydrogen delivery systems, and hydrogen refueling infrastructure development.”
Even as an avowed non-production prototype, this is a bit of a major departure for GM, which has been one of the automakers the most insistent on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as the future. As a result, the automaker has never publicly emphasized an H2ICE prototype, preferring instead to seed the growing number of hydrogen trials around the globe with fuel cell vehicles such as its HydroGen3.
By contrast, Ford, which also has a robust hydrogen fuel cell program, of late has been putting emphasis on its prototype H2ICE vehicles as a way to gain more experience with hydrogen—exactly the reasoning GM outlined above. (Earlier posts here, here, and here.)
As an aside, the H2H also provides an example of a big truck that doesn’t depend on oil and is more friendly (leaving the source of the hydrogen out of the discussion of perception) to the environment. Of course, if that was the only concern, they could just trot out a biodiesel version.
GM produced the H2H in conjunction with its partner Quantum Technologies, a leader in hydrogen fuel systems and storage for both ICE and fuel cell vehicles.
In March 2004, California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) awarded a $2.3 million contract to Quantum to convert a fleet of 30 Toyota Priuses to hydrogen-burning hybrids.
For that project, Quantum is developing the complete OEM-level hydrogen internal combustion engine fuel system, including both the injection system and hydrogen storage system. Included in the fuel systems will be the company’s patented fuel injectors, fuel rails, electronic control system and software, hydrogen storage and a customized turbocharger.
Presumably, Quantum did not need to play such a complete role in the converison of H2 to H2H.
It will be interesting to see if GM follows up with any other H2ICE prototypes. If they do, then it may be an indication that they are beginning to hedge their fuel cell bet, at least in terms of how soon they can build the FCV market.
(Thanks to Autoblog for the tip on the Gov.)