The fuel cell stack developed by the GM FCA specialists generates the electrical energy needed to drive the 82 hp electric motor from liquid hydrogen stored in the on-board tank. The unit, which has a maximum torque of 160 lb ft, takes the fuel cell vehicle almost silently from zero to 60 mph in around 15 seconds and gives it a top speed of 100 mph.

Thousands of hours and a billion dollars spent on research

To date, the GM/Vauxhall fuel cell prototypes have covered a total of 100,000 validation miles all over the world. In addition, they have completed 132 different testing schedules under all conceivable climatic conditions. These included winter testing at minus 15 °C in the Swiss Alps and a city traffic test on the streets of smog-bound Los Angeles. Apart from that, several HydroGen3 vehicles have been out and about in everyday service in the Japanese metropolis of Tokyo and the US capital, Washington.

GM and Vauxhall have so far invested over a billion dollars in their fuel cell research and development with the aim to sell vehicles with the emissions-free technology from 2010. However, Larry Burns, GM Vice President for Research, Development and Planning, cautions: "Only if we achieve a high vehicle volume will the advantages of fuel cell technology for the environment and its contribution to conserving limited fossil energy reserves actually come into effect. This is all the more valid in the light of the forecast increase in global motorisation, with the number of vehicles on the world's roads destined to rise from 775 million today to 1.1 billion in 2020. One pre-requirement for the success of fuel cell cars is, however, that we have a full network of hydrogen filling stations in time for the market launch."

When the fuel cell propulsion system is ready for the production line, it will have a service life of around 100,000 miles. The development team is also endeavouring to make the purchase cost comparable with that of conventional cars. The goal is to reach a cost of 50 dollars per kilowatt of rated output – a figure that matches that of combustion engine traction systems. To achieve these targets, a total of some 600 scientists and engineers at the fuel cell development centre (founded by GM, Opel and Vauxhall in 1997) are working on different aspects of the joint fuel cell programme at five different sites: in Warren (Michigan), Torrance (California), Rochester (New York) and in Mainz Kastel (Germany) and Tokyo (Japan).

When and where the Vauxhall Fuel Cell Marathon - powered by GM will be stopping over
Hammerfest (Norway) 3 May, 2004
Oslo (Norway) 7 May, 2004
Gothenburg (Sweden) 10 May, 2004
Copenhagen (Denmark) 12 May, 2004
Hamburg (Germany) 14 May, 2004
Amsterdam (Netherlands) 17 May, 2004
Brussels (Belgium) 18 May, 2004
London (England) 20/21 May, 2004
Paris (France) 24 May, 2004
R'sselsheim / Darmstadt (Germany) 26 May, 2004
Zurich (Switzerland) 28 May, 2004
Salzburg (Austria) 2 June, 2004
Turin (Italy) 4 June, 2004
Zaragoza (Spain) 7 June, 2004
Madrid (Spain) 8 June, 2004
Lisbon (Portugal) 9 June, 2004
Cabo da Roca (Portugal) 11 June, 2004

Published : 04/05/04 Author : Melanie Carter

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