GM Hy-Wire: World's First Drivable Fuel Cell And By-Wire Concept Vehicle

Vauxhall Hy-Wire

Vauxhall parent company General Motors today unveiled its latest stunning car for tomorrow. It is fully drivable — yet there is no engine to see over, no instrument panel, no steering wheel and no foot pedals to operate!

GM Hy-wire is a car where the fuel doesn't come from a petrol or diesel pump, and where everything that makes it go - and steer and stop - is contained in an 11-inch thick skateboard-like chassis. All the controls are contained in a simple to operate single unit called X-drive.

The covers were lifted from the exciting car to demonstrate the vast strides being made by General Motors in HYdrogen fuel cell propulsion and by-WIRE technology. Hy-wire is the world's first drivable car that combines the two technologies.

The model so profoundly changes the automotive industry that GM has more than 30 patents covering business models, technologies and manufacturing processes. Further inventions are being added all the time.

The concept, a development of the AUTOnomy concept vehicle, will be seen at the Paris motor show in September. GM president Rick Wagoner said: “With AUTOnomy, GM shared a vision. Hy-wire accelerates our progress with a fully functional proof of concept which strengthens our confidence in our ability to gain marketplace acceptance of production fuel cell vehicles.”

Larry Burns, vice president of research and development and planning, added: “We are driving to have compelling and affordable fuel cell vehicles on the road by the end of the decade. With Hy-wire, we have taken the technology as it exists today and packaged it into an innovative drivable vehicle comparable in size and weight to today’s luxury cars.”

With X-drive, drivers have the option to brake and accelerate with either the right or left hand. The driver accelerates by gently twisting either the right or left handgrip, and brakes by squeezing the brake actuator also located on the handgrips. The handgrips glide up and down for steering.

Hy-wire is the product of global co-operation. GM designers and engineers in the United States developed the chassis and body, as well as the engineering and electrical system integration. Engineers at GM’s research facility in Mainz-Kastel, Germany, integrated the fuel-cell propulsion system, which is the same system designed for the HydroGen3 concept (top speed 97 mph), based on the Vauxhall Zafira.

American designers also worked closely with Italian design house Stile Bertone in Turin, where the body was built. The Swedish SKF Group developed the by-wire technology in the Netherlands and in Italy. Chris Borroni-Bird, director of GM design and technology fusion group and programme director of the Hy-wire concept, was born in Liverpool and gained a PhD in chemistry from Cambridge University in 1991.

“Hy-wire is a luxury vehicle in the sense that it is a luxury to have the kind of space and visibility this car provides,” said Ed Welburn, executive director at GM Design. “The design is built around the fact that there is no engine compartment; the vehicle is very open from front to rear. This is intentional to highlight the openness in the interior and the range of possibilities.”

To show off this radically new architecture, the front and rear panels are transparent glass. Onlookers can see through the car from front to rear, the liberal use of glass and the absence of a bonnet provide a greater visual command of the road for the driver. To reinforce this effect even the seat backs are open. There is no B-pillar post between the front and rear doors, and driver and passengers have enhanced legroom.

“The most dramatic view may be from the driver’s seats,” Welburn said. “With no engine, instrument panel or foot pedals, and an open, yet secure cockpit with a floor to ceiling view, it's like being in my living room looking out my picture-window.”

By-wire technology allows steering, braking and other systems to be controlled electronically rather than mechanically. It also incorporates an electronic monitor for vital car functions that shuttles easily from side-to-side on a horizontal bar that stretches across the full width of the car.

The fuel cell stack, producing a continuously available 94 kilowatts of power, is installed in the back of the chassis. The electric motor drives the front wheels and is installed transversely between them. Three cylindrical storage tanks (5,000 psi - pounds per square inch or 350 bars) are located centrally in the chassis.

“Packaging of the components was a major challenge and certainly, in terms of compactness, we’re not at the finish line yet,” said Erhard Schubert, director of the Mainz-Kastel facility. “But this fully functional prototype impressively demonstrates just how flexible our fuel cell technology is and the opportunities it offers.”

Hy-wire weighs 1900 kilograms (4,180 lbs) with 20-inch front and 22-inch rear tyres.

Published : 14/08/02 Author : Melanie Carter

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