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GM to Highlight HydroGen4 at Frankfurt Show

Hydrogen4trans
GM’s HydroGen4 uses the company’s fourth-generation fuel cell technology. Click to enlarge.

GM’s HydroGen4, the European version of the Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle, will make its European premiere at the Frankfurt Motor Show. GM will also introduce a diesel version of the E-Flex Volt plug-in hybrid (earlier post).

The HydroGen4 uses the fourth generation of GM's fuel cell technology. The HydroGen4’s fuel cell stack consists of 440 series-connected cells that produce an electrical output of up to 93 kW. A 73 kW/100 hp synchronous electric motor develops 320 Nm (236 lb-ft) of torque, and accelerates the vehicle from zero to 100 km/h in about 12 seconds. The front-wheel drive vehicle’s top speed is about 160 km/h (99 mph).

Hydrogen4
GM’s HydroGen4.

Unlike its predecessor, the individual cells of the new stack are positioned horizontally—as opposed to vertically—for packaging reasons, i.e. for optimal distribution of the individual components in the vehicle. The gas supply to the stack is also different in the HydroGen4 compared to the HydroGen3: instead of a screw-type compressor at the cathode, an electric turbo compressor provides the fuel cells with air. This increases efficiency and acoustics.

The HydroGen4 has a tank system with three, 700-bar high-pressure tanks made from carbon-fiber composite material, which can hold 4.2 kg of hydrogen, supporting an operating range of up to 320 kilometers (199 miles).

The new fuel cell propulsion system also has a 35 kW NiMH buffer battery with a capacity of 1.8 kWh. The battery ensures improved driving performance and covers the system’s performance peaks. The efficiency of the entire propulsion system has also been improved, as the buffer battery enables regenerative braking in the HydroGen4. When braking or overrunning, the electric motor switches to generator operation and uses the electrical energy produced when braking to charge the battery.

If the driver has to brake harder, the car will also be decelerated hydraulically, as is the case in a conventional car. This combination of regenerative and hydraulic brake performance—“brake blending”—is applied by driving stability programs such as ABS or ESP, or when the required deceleration exceeds the maximum regenerative braking performance. This is determined by the size of the generator and battery input capacity.

Battery and braking technology are also important links to the GM E-Flex electric vehicle architecture that the company is also developing.

The HydroGen4 is designed for a lifecycle of two years/80,000 kilometers (50,000 miles), and can start and run at sub-zero temperatures—a considerable advancement over the predecessor HydroGen3 and an important characteristic with regards to the everyday usability of fuel cell vehicles. This improvement is possible thanks to an intelligent combination of measures including thermal insulation, water management and operating strategy.

Although GM had two versions of the HydroGen3—one variant operating on liquid hydrogen at -253°C and another on compressed hydrogen—the company is now only focusing on compressed hydrogen.

The main reason for this is the unavoidable boil-off that occurs with liquid hydrogen. Even with optimum insulation, the tank’s contents warm up slowly, so that the liquid hydrogen vaporizes and the pressure in the tank increases. After a few days, gaseous hydrogen has to be released from the parked vehicle, leading to a loss in fuel. There are no such vapor losses (boil-off) with compressed gas, however.

—Dr. Udo Winter, Director, GME Fuel Cell Activities

From mid-2008, a total of ten HydroGen4 vehicles will take part in day-to-day testing within the framework of the Clean Energy Partnership (CEP) in Berlin as part of GM’s larger global testing program of more than 100 vehicles. Starting this fall in the US, GM will begin deploying Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles in the “Project Driveway” testing and demonstration program.

The start of this more extensive second phase of CEP requires the two Berlin hydrogen refueling stations to be modified to be able to refuel the GM HydroGen4 with gaseous hydrogen at 700 bar. The vehicles will operate within the framework by the National Innovations Program: hydrogen and fuel cell technology (NIP).

Based on a national development plan designed with the industry, the German government will allocate a total of €500 million (US$681 million) of public funds to this program over a period of ten years.

Fuel cell development at GM is also entering a new organizational era. More than 400 engineers will now drive the development forward within the Powertrain organization, with a further 100 moving into global product development to begin the integration of fuel cells into upcoming GM models.

The Fuel Cell Activities (FCA) research division with over 600 employees is currently being integrated into regular series development, giving it key importance within the concern. We are thus preparing for the series production of fuel cell technology.

—Carl-Peter Forster, President of GM Europe

Comments

François

"The HydroGen4 is designed for a lifecycle of two years/80,000 kilometers (50,000 miles), and can start and run at sub-zero temperatures—a considerable advancement over the predecessor HydroGen3 and an important characteristic with regards to the everyday usability of fuel cell vehicles."

Great. And some billions dollars later they will finally discover a much more effective way to move an electric vehicle : a battery. Which you can already recharge within a few minutes, by the way.

Mick C.

I share Francois' desire to get the electricity from the grid instead of a HydroGen4 unit that has to replaced every 50k miles. For safety resons I wouldn't consider letting my family travel sitting on multiple hydrogen tanks. Would they even let you drive through the tunnels carrying hydrogen? One of the many things I like about a diesel genset range extender is the double utility of having a portable generator. How useful is that?

Ben

And how much will it cost? The EVs make sense because they are simpler to build and cheaper (in theory) then fuel cell hybrids. And using battery tech like AltairNano and A123 the battery could last for hundred of thousand of miles (25,000+ cycles) not 50,000.

clett

After all that "we will never put a battery in a FCV... hybridisation is a waste of money" from GM....

Looking forward to seeing the diesel E-flex though.

Nick

500 engineers working on this dead end (sigh).

jack

Which you can already recharge within a few minutes, by the way.

Really? Which vehicle on the road today has this battery?

andrichrose

zebra cells recharge to about 65% in 45 mins , not bad for a cheap battery
price at the moment is about 10000 euro for 25 kwh in small quantitys ie 1 cell
In quantity I have it from a reliable source price would be around 5 -6000
euro , would you fork out 6000 euros for a cell which will last around 7 to 8
years or 200, 000miles , I know that I would , so why is everyone not using
this cell , dont ask me , its enough to make one believe that something
underhand is afoot !

Ben

A123 and AltairNano nanosafe batteries can handle charge times of 10min (several hundred KW). Also EV cars are far closer to being in production then Fuel Cell vechiles, take Tesla motor for example.

mark

Maybe hydrogen fuel cells are not so obsurd if you consider that all those batteries will be charged from an electrical grid based on carbon or nuclear fuel. Are you ready for all the additional power generation plants in your back yards. Hydrogen transportation fuel derived from solar, what's wrong with that?

jack

A123 and AltairNano nanosafe batteries can handle charge times of 10min (several hundred KW).

Could you answer my question, please? Which vehicle on the road today has this battery?

WhiteBeard

It’s such a spiffy thing for the run from the McMansion down to the yacht basin. (Look at the photo). Much nicer than all those windmills, don’t you think.

mark

You already know the answer - the batteries are not ready yet. In addition to fuel cells, GM has contracted A123 batteries to develop them for cars. Every car company has a plan for advancing to hybids, then to batteries, and then to fuel cells. Gasoline, batteries, hydrogen - they are all energy transfer mediums. All have efficiency losses. Technological advances will only be part of the answer because long term we must get as close to the solar energy as possible and bypass the GHG and radioactive byproducts.

WhiteBeard

It’s such a spiffy thing for the run from the McMansion down to the yacht basin. (Look at the photo). Much nicer than all those windmills, don’t you think.

jack

Also EV cars are far closer to being in production then Fuel Cell vechiles, take Tesla motor for example.

So? Betamax preceded VHS.

WhiteBeard

“Hydrogen transportation fuel derived from solar, what's wrong with that?”

You might want to consider a whole new high pressure distribution system involving a highly explosive commodity with all the Homer Simpson somewhere in the mix?

jack

a highly explosive commodity

Do you mean gasoline or natural gas? Propane, perhaps? Lithium-ion batteries? There's just so many highly explosive commodities out there, it's hard to keep track of them.

Alain

A lot of the electricity needed to recharge EV's is available "for free" at the moment. Big power plants can not lower their output at night, so a lot of the electricity produced at night is lost. If EV's are recharged at night, no additional powerplants are needed and even no additional CO2/nuclear waste is produced for the first few milion EV's.

jack

Big power plants can not lower their output at night

Sounds like we need to close down some base load plants.

WhiteBeard

Jack

You forgot about that old standby -- the iron cannon ball with a black powder charge and burning fuse?

My point was adding another hazard has consequences, and the key concepts, at least as I see them, are HIGH PRESSURE and GOMERS.

Have the last word. I'm done.

Jack,

What production car has fuel cells? At least A123 is already being bidded to be put in cars. Telsa motors uses antiquated lithim ion and they are getting 200+ miles without tanks of explosive gas. Hydrogen has horrible volumetric density: zinc or almiumim paste (or particle hopper solution) would make a better fuel cell (metal-air fuel cell) as they are not combustable and have much higher volumetric densities then compressed hydrogen. EV can be implemented faster then hydrogen and most EVs could be charge on off-peak power alone meaning minmial changes to our existing infrastruture. Maybe some time after peak oil hydrogen can be implemented when its volumetric density and price problems are fixed, but now now EV and biofuel and the closes available solution.

jack

My point was adding another hazard has consequences, and the key concepts, at least as I see them, are HIGH PRESSURE and GOMERS.

Cars have fire and explosion hazards with gasoline, with diesel, with batteries. Doesn't really matter which is the fuel among the competitors. I'll take a hydrogen fire over a gasoline fire any day of the week.

===

What production car has fuel cells?

It doesn't. That's the point. People act like fast-recharge batteries are a reality, yet they're no more a reality than fuel cell vehicles.

Telsa motors uses antiquated lithim ion and they are getting 200+ miles without tanks of explosive gas.

They are? My understanding is that there hasn't been a Tesla Roadster delivered to a customer yet. You're talking about test vehicles, not road-tested technology.

Hydrogen has horrible volumetric density

So does air. That's why it gets compressed for scuba divers.

EV can be implemented faster then hydrogen and most EVs could be charge on off-peak power alone meaning minmial changes to our existing infrastruture. Maybe some time after peak oil hydrogen can be implemented when its volumetric density and price problems are fixed, but now now EV and biofuel and the closes available solution.

Whatever. Standard speech. It's all hypotheticals at this point.

Ben

Jack,

Even compressed hydrogen has extremly poor energy density. Technically Tesla has sold several hundred roadsters: can you show me a fuel cell car I could purchase and wait for delivery for? Batteries are far ahead of fuel cells they aready exist on the market in hybrid cars. A renewable economy is also hypotherical.

jack

Even compressed hydrogen has extremly poor energy density.

The next-gen Honda FCX has greater range than the Tesla Roadster.

Technically Tesla has sold several hundred roadsters

And the FCX has been on the road for years.

can you show me a fuel cell car I could purchase and wait for delivery for?

That you would want? I assume you have a Tesla Roadster ordered? No? Why would that be?

Batteries are far ahead of fuel cells they aready exist on the market in hybrid cars.

Batteries have existed for a very long time -- well before hybrid cars. Still means nothing, since you're still comparing hypotheticals.

A renewable economy is also hypotherical.

What's a "renewable economy"? An economy that keeps coming back?

Ben

Jake,

No one can buy a FCX, the range using hydrogen is still limited and uses more total power then batteries which are more energy efficient then hydrogen. And fuel cells have been around since the 1830's.

jack

"Energy density is the amount of energy stored in a given system or region of space per unit volume, or per unit mass, depending on the context."

BTU/Liter
Hydrogen (@5000 psi) - 3,242
Li-Ion battery - 921
Ratio - 3.5

BTU/kg
Hydrogen - 135,378
Li-Ion battery - 546
Ratio - 248.0

No one can buy a FCX

No, they lease them. Playing semantics now?

the range using hydrogen is still limited

Not as limited as the Tesla, apparently.

and uses more total power then (sic) batteries which are more energy efficient then (sic) hydrogen

Batteries are more energy efficient? Don't you mean electric motors running off of batteries have a higher conversion efficiency than electric motors powered by a hydrogen-fueled fuel cell?

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