Researcher Investigates Tropical Maize as Biofuel Crop; “Sugarcane of the Midwest”
US House Committee Advances Energy Storage Systems Research, Development and Demonstration Bill; Vehicle-to-Grid Services Included

GM Launches Project Driveway, Largest Market Test of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles Yet

Equinoxfcev1
The 2007 Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicle.

GM has launched Project Driveway—the first large-scale consumer market test of fuel cell electric vehicles anywhere. (Earlier post.) Under Project Driveway, GM will temporarily deploy more than 100 Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicles among selected customers in suburban Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C.

A variety of drivers—from regular families to celebrities—will have free use of an Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicle and the hydrogen fuel it needs to make electricity onboard. The average family will get one of the vehicles for three months and be required to report their experience to Chevrolet.

Project Driveway is not focused on testing the technology; the Equinox uses GM’s fourth-generation fuel cell system, while the company has already moved on to a fifth generation to be applied in the fuel-cell variant of the Volt, for example. The technology in the Equinox is already four-years old, given the development and production cycles.

Rather, according to Byron McCormick, Executive Director GM Global Fuel Cell Activities, the project is designed to help GM understand customer reaction to the vehicle: its handling, overall performance, customer confidence, reaction to refueling, speed, capacity, audible cues (such as the whine of the electric motor on deceleration), braking feel and response, and so on.

Intellectually, it [the fuel cell electric vehicle] may be a great story, but if the customers don’t buy it, it doesn’t matter. Project Driveway is designed to learn what makes a difference—how fast the air conditioning comes on, how the braking feels, sounds, etc. If you look at the risks our industry is facing, it’s worth spending the money to find out if consumers care about these things.

—Byron McCormick

GM will apply what it learns to the advancement of both of its series of electric drive vehicles—fuel cell electric vehicles, as well as range-extended battery electric vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Volt with GM’s E-Flex system. (Earlier post.)

These two families of electric vehicles mark the “cut line on petroleum” and are the “paradigm buster”, according to McCormick—the development pathway that leads to displacing petroleum in transportation.

The two technology variants of electric drive “complement each other, they’re not mutually exclusive,” McCormick said in a presentation for the kick-off of Project Driveway.

We don’t see it as a win/lose. With E-Flex, we’ll take the batteries as far as they will take us. For people who are doing commutes of 40 miles or less—about 50% of drivers—battery technology looks like it will have good promise. Hydrogen gives you a full-performance vehicle with a long driving range and a short refueling time.

—Byron McCormick

Taxonomically, GM is drawing a distinction between plug-in hybrids and range-extended electric vehicles that plug-in. The plug-in hybrid label thus is assigned to the coming version of the Saturn Vue Green Line two-mode hybrid—a mixed mechanical and electric drive vehicle with a large, grid-chargeable battery pack. The range-extended electric vehicle—as represented by the Volt and the E-Flex architecture, for example—uses only an electric drive. Although the vehicles can plug in (the Volt is a series hybrid with a small combustion engine as the range extender for a large li-ion pack that is also grid-chargeable), GM is emphasizing the electric drive, rather than focusing on the multiple sources of electricity as defining a “hybrid.”

The Equinox Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle. The Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicle is equipped with a GM fourth-generation, 93 kW fuel cell stack. A 35 kW NiMH battery pack (about 1.8 kWh) provides energy storage for regenerative braking. These power a front-wheel drive, 3-phase, 73 kW continuous, 94 kW maximum asynchronous electric motor that delivers 236 lb-ft (320 Nm) of instant torque and a top speed of about 100 miles per hour.

Equinoxfcev2jpg
The instrument panel features a power indicator (right) rather than a tachometer to show the power being delivered to the system in kW. The green numbers below the 0 indicate regen power. Click to enlarge.

Three 700 bar compressed hydrogen storage tanks store 4.2 kg of hydrogen—enough for a range of approximately 150 miles under the new 2008 EPA adjusted measurement. GM managed to fit the tanks without disrupting the passenger cabin space, and with only a slight penalty in the cargo area. The mid-sized crossover seats four, and offers 32 cubic feet of cargo volume.

Instead of a tachometer, a power indicator is integrated into the instrument panel to show the actual power being delivered to the system in kilowatts (kW).

In order to prepare for the market test, GM worked with first responders in the Project Driveway test areas to detail vehicle specifics in the event of an emergency, and program participants will be trained in safe fueling practices.

Major systems of the Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle are designed to shut down in the event of a crash. Because it uses a high-voltage system, similar to hybrid vehicles, only trained personnel should work on the vehicle. A guide for emergency personnel shows where key fuel cell components are located, and gives step-by-step directions on disabling the electrical system.

Seven sensors located in the vehicle alert the driver in the event of a hydrogen leak. In the event potentially unsafe levels are detected, the system will alert the driver with a blinking icon, an audible beep and a message on the driver information panel.

Comments

Wells

K, your point about the difference between looking 20 years ahead and what can be done now is valid. But, my conclusion regarding plug-in hybrid technology holds true for both near and long-term goals. The potential applicability, advantages and benefits of plug-in hybrid technology will never be surpassed by hydrogen.

For those who want to actually add to the discussion, do give some thought to land-use and development. What sort of car need not be driven nearly so often nor so far? I will argue that car is the plug-in hybrid, NOT the hydrogen fuel cell car which will need to be driven repeatedly, merely to fill its tanks.

The Honda FCX 2-door subcompact test vehicle in Los Angeles is driven about 80 miles a day. Its hydrogen tank must be refilled 3 times a week because it maximum driving range is only about 190 miles. The GM Equinox fuel cell vehicle is similarly ridiculous.

Schmeltz

Wells,
I sort of see where you are going with the range problem. Just several months ago, GM drove their Sequel 300 miles on one fill of Hydrogen though--therefore, they're getting better. Furthermore, FCV's are technically Plug-in Hybrids too. Look at the Ford Edge FCV prototype and the Chevy Volt FCV where Hydrogen is used as a Range Extender for an all Electric drivetrain. People forget that the FCV's automaker's are working on are ALSO EV's.

Roger Pham, are you out there buddy? Could use a little of your excellent ideas here.

Wells

Schmeltz and Jack have been reduced to sarcasm, one of those last refuges of scoundrels.

Wells

Oh, do you really see where I'm going with the range problem, Schmeltz? I don't think so.

To me, a limited range of 10 miles of zero emission, battery-only operation is good. Can you see that? I don't think so.

Schmeltz

Wells:
The GM Sequel event I mentioned was a zero-emissions trip. Hydrogen was made via the clean and green electricity of Niagara Falls. Granted, that situation wouldn't be happening everywhere--I'll give you that. The Volt and Edge concepts I mentioned also have longer all-electric ranges than 10 miles too.

Wells

The real problem with our automobiles is their numbers and the average daily distance we drive them. If an automobile has a zero-emission driving range of only 10 miles, the places we drive them to are more local. Rather than driving across town to the Costco to stock up on bulk commodities, or to occupations so far and further from home, more of our average driving distances are reduced to the point where the car is not the only means of making those trips.

jack

The Honda FCX 2-door subcompact test vehicle in Los Angeles is driven about 80 miles a day. Its hydrogen tank must be refilled 3 times a week because it maximum driving range is only about 190 miles. The GM Equinox fuel cell vehicle is similarly ridiculous.

And the EV poster child, the Tesla, has a driving range of 200 miles with a 4-5 hour recharge time. What's your point?

K

Wells et al. Good to see such a low temperature discussion of H2 and its competitors.

IMO, and yours, the plugin hybrid will prevail and tend toward serial hybrids. But there will be a wide mix. Pure EVs will also be out there, I expect they will become common after 2012. Pure ICE will not vanish.

The fuel of the serial hybrid can change to H2 if fuel cells come down in cost. My crystal ball says 2014 or so. The infrastructure for mass use of H2 would be very expensive.

The infrastructure for carbon fuels exists and the electrical grid exists. It is far less costly to expand or adapt those, I don't how H2 can beat that fundamental.

You can bet the military will be using H2 where it works, and government agencies always buy showcase stuff.(Sort of like solar; government buys or subsidizes an awful lot of the industry.)

As for H2 being green. True. If you have it.

And putting everyone on public transit? The government has been spending billions on that for decades. Almost nothing ever gets built within ten years - that is the pace.

jack

Schmeltz and Jack have been reduced to sarcasm, one of those last refuges of scoundrels.

I think you mean patriotism, Francis.

jack

The real problem with our automobiles is their numbers and the average daily distance we drive them. If an automobile has a zero-emission driving range of only 10 miles, the places we drive them to are more local. Rather than driving across town to the Costco to stock up on bulk commodities, or to occupations so far and further from home, more of our average driving distances are reduced to the point where the car is not the only means of making those trips.

So clearly what's going to unfold is that the government and automakers will force low range vehicles upon the public and severely curtail mobility. I assume all planes, trains, and buses will also need to stop operating as we compel people into Walkatopia.

Wells

Automobile manufacturers do not want their customers altering their driving habits. Nor will petroleum and energy industry interests invest in a technology that results in their customers buying less fuel/electricity. A host of business interests depend upon a motoring public, from parking garage fee chargers to finance and insurance, maintenance and repair, even big box retailers depending upon motorists who'll drive forever to save a nickel on krup advertized on TV whose executives likewise derive income from cars advertizement.

jack

Automobile manufacturers do not want their customers altering their driving habits. Nor will petroleum and energy industry interests invest in a technology that results in their customers buying less fuel/electricity. A host of business interests depend upon a motoring public, from parking garage fee chargers to finance and insurance, maintenance and repair, even big box retailers depending upon motorists who'll drive forever to save a nickel on krup advertized on TV whose executives likewise derive income from cars advertizement.

Yes, and...?

Everyone knows that. The problem is finding a real solution to that, and forgive me for being skeptical of the notion of low-range vehicles being foisted upon us by government mandate or something. Whatever scheme people think up needs to stand a chance of happening (and actually be appealing instead of grim).

Wells

The car with a battery-only, zero-emission, limited driving range, Jack, is an economic incentive because that energy is less expensive. It is not a government-imposed restriction upon our idiotic driving compulsion.

Furthermore, when we want or must drive further than our average daily driving distances, the plug-in hybrid can have a driving range of 500 miles or more, at least twice as far as hydrogen. Of course, the fuel will be more expensive, but not as expensive has hydrogen.

Wells

Plug-in hybrids are a technological perfect match with rooftop solar photovoltiac panels. The amount of energy a solar panel can direct into a plug-in hybrid battery pack is much more than can be directed to electrolysis and compressed storage of hydrogen. Thus, plug-in hybrid technology offers a more efficient use of solar energy. The plug-in hybrid battery pack can be 1/3 that of a complete EV, yet their weight still directed to improve stability and handling, a safety feature applicable to all vehicles especially roll-prone, top-heavy SUVs.

jack

The car with a battery-only, zero-emission, limited driving range, Jack, is an economic incentive because that energy is less expensive. It is not a government-imposed restriction upon our idiotic driving compulsion.

We've had such vehicles for years. No one buys them.

Furthermore, when we want or must drive further than our average daily driving distances, the plug-in hybrid can have a driving range of 500 miles or more, at least twice as far as hydrogen. Of course, the fuel will be more expensive, but not as expensive has hydrogen.

As has been pointed out already, plug-in and hydrogen are not mutually exclusive, and plug-ins still aren't available mass market, either. And you know the price of fossil fuels at the pump far into the future? You should play the market - you'll make a killing.

Plug-in hybrids are a technological perfect match with rooftop solar photovoltiac panels. The amount of energy a solar panel can direct into a plug-in hybrid battery pack is much more than can be directed to electrolysis and compressed storage of hydrogen. Thus, plug-in hybrid technology offers a more efficient use of solar energy. The plug-in hybrid battery pack can be 1/3 that of a complete EV, yet their weight still directed to improve stability and handling, a safety feature applicable to all vehicles especially roll-prone, top-heavy SUVs.

This sounds like elevator music by now it's been repeated so often.

andrichrose

car companies must be rubbing their grubby little hands together at the
moment , I suspect they can hardly believe their luck by which they have
managed to fool both the public and the governments both here in europe
and in the states into thinking that H2 is the fuel of the future, it seems
that administrations are falling over themselves to hand out money to try
and futher the cause of a technology which at the moment is totally impractical

in europe the european commission´s research site site has published an 80
page document titled

Well-to-Wheels analysis of future automotive fuels and
powertrains in the european context
version 2c march 2007

and you know what in all its eighty pages it does not mention once BEV or
PHEV , no it just points the way towards H2 and continuing with ICE
yeah and get this , it mentions hybrid drive trains only once with the line-
" Hybrid technologys would, however , increase the complexity and cost
of the vehicles "

however the best bit is within the acknowledgments, who do you think is
on the scientific advisory board , yep you guessed it, its our old friend
Exxon Mobil along with Ford and a possie of 11 other car manufacturers
and 5 more oil companies , no NGO´s freinds of the earth , or other
neutural groups , they just sat there and carved it up between them!
this document will go towards making future policy in europe !

the car companies are happy ,because they get to sell us all an even
more complicated and expensive product , I shudder to think of the
price of a new carbon fibre H2 tank when you are told that you have
to get it replaced after only 4 years, otherwise you will not get insurance
cover for the vehicle . also fuel cells hate dirt , and cold , and they dont
like heat all that much , all in all, a pretty fragile piece of kit .
plus at the moment the cheapest big enough for a family car seems to
be around $250,000, in most industries this would be seen as something
of a stumbling block , apparently not.

The oil companies are happy because they now are all expecting to slide
sideways into the the production of H2 , this will enable them to keep
a branded product "our H2 is beter than our competitors down the road "
I think that they all realised many years ago that not even the dumbest of
us would ever believe the same of electricity if that technology was to
be adopted , and they would all be soon out of a job !

so there we are , the deal seems to be done and dusted, certainly on this
side of the pond , with large grants awarded to industry this week for the
development of H2
maybe in America there is still some hope for the BEV and PHEV, but I would
not like to bet on it !

the EU report can be acessed on the net - WTW Report 010307.doc

Wells

Jack, the kind of car I'm describing is a basic Prius, (which are selling quite well thank you very much), with a slightly larger battery pack that Toyota is beginning to offer. This technology is applicable to all range of vehicles, compact to full-size and heavy duty freight.

Hydrogen "fuel cell" and plug-in hybrid vehicles are mutually exclusive. However, a plug-in hybrid's ICE engine can burn hydrogen, but the extended driving range is less than possible with other applicable fuels, all of which have greater energy density than hydrogen.

Thanks, Jack, for making yourself clear, that you are not interested in or able to conduct honest debate.

Neil

If there is vitriol connected with H2 on this site, it's not because the technology is dirty or even completely impossible. What people hate is being pushed down a path that is more expensive and harder to tread so that some already rich people can get even richer. Most people aren't thrilled to have an industry try to pull a bait and switch con job on them.

Nei

Wells: You said: "Hydrogen "fuel cell" and plug-in hybrid vehicles are mutually exclusive." Would you please explain exactly what you mean by this? How is a battery heavy car with a fuel cell range extender not a PHEV? I think this is just a matter of wording.

jack

Jack, the kind of car I'm describing is a basic Prius, (which are selling quite well thank you very much), with a slightly larger battery pack that Toyota is beginning to offer. This technology is applicable to all range of vehicles, compact to full-size and heavy duty freight.

The CalCars idea. How's that going? And how exactly does this vehicle eliminate big box retailing and so forth?

Hydrogen "fuel cell" and plug-in hybrid vehicles are mutually exclusive.

Wrong. Just have the option to charge the battery pack from a plug, same as a gasoline vehicle.

Thanks, Jack, for making yourself clear, that you are not interested in or able to conduct honest debate.

The slide down the personal insult hill begins.

Patrick

Wells,

Are you suggesting work places have solar panels installed? In the US, it is hard to get most companies to make investments in Engineering and R&D for projects that will drive profit if the ROI is longer than 18 months...

solar panels on my living quarters would do nothing, there is almost no load during the day except for on the weekends as I unplug many of my electronics when I am not home.

jack,

You completely missed his point about range. SO what if an electric car has a pitiful range? You plug it in at home any day of the week and you are not making an extra trip to do so. If your hydrogen vehicle does not have decent range, guess what? You make more trips (using fuel/energy) to refuel...1.3kW-hr is hardly a plug-in vehicle. Hydrogen at home? Along with the 700bar compressor right? I paid ~$200 for a compressor rated around 8.6bar (for air tools)...I couldn't imagine the cost of a 700bar compressor, nor noise involved, to refuel with hydrogen at home.

jack

You completely missed his point about range.

Yet you fail to elaborate on this.

SO what if an electric car has a pitiful range?

It's called "getting out of town." Heard of the concept?

You plug it in at home any day of the week and you are not making an extra trip to do so.

Nice theory, won't happen. People are not going to conform their behavior to some ideal. They want immediate gratification.

If your hydrogen vehicle does not have decent range, guess what?

MY hydrogen vehicle? I didn't know I had one.

You make more trips (using fuel/energy) to refuel

Not if I make it at home.

1.3kW-hr is hardly a plug-in vehicle.

I have no idea what you mean by that comment.

Hydrogen at home? Along with the 700bar compressor right?

Or neighborhood-based. Entirely feasible, especially if hydrogen is used as a heating fuel.

I paid ~$200 for a compressor rated around 8.6bar (for air tools)...I couldn't imagine the cost of a 700bar compressor, nor noise involved, to refuel with hydrogen at home.

How much did a 3 GHz personal computer cost in 1975? It's called technological advance. Heard of it?

HHN

Hydrogen?
strictly an Ego Trip by some Corporate GM Nut,like the 30% rented sky scrapers,such as the trump tower etc.

Wells

Nei and Jack. I figure a plug-in hybrid vehicle is an ICE paired with a generator/motor drive system and a battery pack that is larger than that of a standard Prius but say 1/3 that of a straight EV.

There may not be enought room to add a hydrogen fuel cell stack and tank to the plug-in hybrid drivetrain. In the mid-90's, the GM hybrid prototype had this configuration. Ford's hybrid prototype of the era had a simple battery instead and is today's standard instead of GM's hairbrained gotta-have-hydrogen-in-there-somehow idea.

A straight EV may have enough room to add a fuel cell stack and tanks, but can we call using the two forms of chemical energy a hybrid? So, I just make a logical conclusion that plug-in hybrid and fuel cell technology are mutually exclusive.

Patrick. Solar panels are expensive, but I believe mass implementation is inevitable. Having this backup household power supply in the event of an emergency, grid failure or electric utility company price gouging would be invaluable. They'd be useful for monitoring household energy conservation. As plug-in hybrid batteries reach the end of their use for vehicle propulsion, they can extend their usefulness as stationary household power for low-demand purposes.

That's most of my case for plug-in hybrids, but there are plenty more logical reasons to conclude plug-in hybrids have way more potential than hydrogen fuel cell and bio-fuels in a standard drivetrain.

anti gravity

Would the people who love fool cells please tell where will the H2 for the fool cells come from
if you say from natural gas, why not use the natural gas in an ICE
Or if you want to get the H2 from water using electricty , why not just use the electricty to charge batterys in an EV
If you use 100 watts of electricty to create H2 from water. what % of the 100 watts will you get back when you use the H2 in your fool cell
If you charge a battery with 100 watts what % will get back out of the battery.
When you know the ans to both of these questions it becomes clear that fool cells are a scam
The only thing holding back BEVs today is mass production of Li batteries, and that will soon happen
fool cells are held back by the cost of the fool cell and the problem of storing H2

Today every home in the country could charge an EV but none could refuel a H2 tank
what are fool cells built from and what do the cost today, what will they cost in ten years
If fool cells were ever going to work why is there no company selling a high cost low volume car, Tesla can do it with an EV, if fool cells are better why do i not see a new high tech company leading the way
www.aptera.com
www.loremo.com ( ev on the way )
www.lightningcarcompany.com
www.flytheroad.com

The comments to this entry are closed.