General Motors Shows Off New Fuel-Cell Technology

By BridgeNews General Motors Corp. is one step closer to bringing fuel-cell-powered vehicles to the commercial market. The automaker showed off a Chevrolet S-10 pickup, which extracts hydrogen from gasoline to power the vehicle, at the University of Michigan Automotive Management Briefing Aug. 7. GM also unveiled a stationary fuel-cell generator that could provide energy for homes. A gasoline reformer powers the S-10 pickup. It extracts hydrogen and, in turn, gets about 50% better fuel economy than its combustion engine counterpart. It also emits about 50% less carbon dioxide. While GM's goal is to offer vehicles that run solely on hydrogen, those that run on gasoline are a necessary steppingstone. The infrastructure that would allow drivers to fill their tanks with hydrogen does not exist and will take some time to put in place. But cars that run on hydrogen would not emit any harmful emissions. GM said its fuel-cell technology is significantly smaller and more powerful than what it had a year ago. The size of the unit was reduced by a factor of three. It also improved power density by 25%. "It's like comparing a 100-lb person lifting 500 lb with a 200-lb person lifting 500 lb," says Larry Burns, GM's vice president for research and development and planning. "While each lifter has the ability to move this massive load, the 100-lb lifter has twice the power density, packing the power into a smaller frame." GM also unveiled a stationary fuel-cell unit that could be used to power homes, businesses, or even subdivisions. The fuel cell could prevent power failures from occurring.

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