Sunday, April 13, 2008

GM Pushing industry to get on the Hydrogen Bandwagon

General Motors Corp.'s leading proponent of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles will challenge the energy industry and governments to commit to developing a public hydrogen fueling infrastructure when he addresses the National Hydrogen Association's annual conference in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday.

In his keynote address to the conference aimed at ramping up commercialization of hydrogen, GM Vice President of Research & Development and Strategic Planning Larry Burns is expected to urge cooperation from government and the energy industry and to outline GM's proposed plan for establishing hydrogen fueling stations first in small numbers in and around a few major cities and over time connecting cities to one another along main arteries.

"The automobile industry has reached a critical juncture in our journey to realize the full potential of hydrogen fuel cell-electric vehicles," Burns is expected to say as part of his prepared remarks. "We have now reached a point where the energy industry and governments must pick up their pace so we can continue to advance in a timely manner."

Urban areas that could be first to establish hydrogen fueling infrastructures include Berlin, Shanghai and Los Angeles, Burns says.

But even in California, a state that is pushing automakers to improve fuel economy and lessen vehicle dependence on fossil fuels, GM says government hasn't cleared the way for hydrogen fueling stations.

The Los Angeles area is one of three urban areas where GM has launched a pilot program called Project Driveway to put Chevrolet Equinox hydrogen fuel cell vehicles into the hands of businesses and average drivers. To support the program, GM is prepared to put in fueling stations that deliver hydrogen in a compact form, called 700-bar, that delivers the desired mileage from a fill-up. But GM was surprised at how difficult it is to get the permits it needs to build adequate fueling stations.

"We are all excited about the project and frustrated by this issue," said Chevrolet spokeswoman Carolyn Normandin.

"What is urgently needed is sufficient investment by energy providers and the cooperation of government."

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