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Hawaii, Hydrogen, and General Motors Fuel Cells

New collaboration on Oahu for refueling fuel cell vehicles.

by on May.11, 2010

The state of Hawaii wants to reduce petroleum use by 70% within a generation.

General Motors and The Gas Company (TGC), Hawaii’s major gas energy provider, announced today a hydrogen infrastructure project that will use an estimated five to 50 of GM’s fuel cell vehicles as part of the program.

Hawaii could benefit from hydrogen-powered fuel cell transportation because it depends on imported petroleum for 90% percent of its energy use.  Gasoline prices are among the highest and electricity prices are the highest in the U.S.

However, fuel cells continue to face many challenges, including extremely high costs for both the energy and the fuel cell vehicle, as well as limited range.  One solution to overcome range anxiety is under development at GM, but it requires large, high-pressure  hydrogen tanks (700 bar, 128 Kg), which can take up much of the usable space of a car, to allow for 300 miles between  refills.

TGC already produces hydrogen along with synthetic natural gas and delivers it in its utility gas stream, with more than 5% hydrogen content today. Through a proprietary separation process, TGC plans to tap into its 1,000-mile utility pipeline system at several locations and separate the hydrogen for use by local fueling stations, estimated at 21, for fuel cell vehicles.


GM Fuel Cell Production Ready by 2015?

Latest generation fuel cell shrinks in size, weight, and cost.

by on Apr.09, 2010

The latest fuel cell system is 220 pounds lighter and about half the size of the one used in the Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicle.

General Motors Company is testing a “production-intent” hydrogen fuel cell system that can be packaged in the space of a traditional four-cylinder engine and be ready for commercial use in 2015.

No cost or performance information has been released by GM.

The second-generation system is half the size, 220 pounds lighter and uses about a third of the platinum of the fuel cell in the Chevrolet Equinox electric vehicles used in Project Driveway. (See One Million Miles of Fuel Cell Testing at Chevrolet )

The electric Equinox runs on electricity created by an on-board fuel cell stack similar to ones used the space program and almost as expensive. The U.S. Department of Energy estimated in 2008 that in volume production electricity would be made at $73 a kilowatt. A kilowatt hour (KWh) of electricity in Michigan for residential customers costs 15 cents or less.

In spite of the enormous technical challenge, the attraction of a fuel cell is that the only emissions created are water vapor — if you do not take into account how the hydrogen fuel is created that the Chevrolet fuel cell uses.

GM has the world’s largest market test and demonstration fleet of fuel cell electric vehicles in use, and since 2007 and it has tallied nearly 1.3 million miles of driving in cities around the world.

“Our learning from Project Driveway has been tremendous and these vehicles have been very important to our program,” Charles Freese, executive director of GM’s Global Fuel Cell Activities told reporters Tuesday at a news briefing on GM’s fuel cell progress.   (more…)