GM Pushing Fuel-Cell Engineers to Production
June 15, 2007: Source – Detroit Free Press
More than 500 of GM’s fuel-cell engineers will be shifted from research labs to production engineering divisions, signaling a push to get a fuel-cell option to market.
GM’s Volt, widely dismissed as vaporware when the concept was introduced, is still cited as a probable vehicle for the technology. The series-hybrid Volt idea features two possible propulsion methods: either fuel cells or electric motors, both requiring lithium-ion batteries. The batteries could be charged by plugging into an outlet as well as using power generated onboard.
Larry Burns, GM’s vice president of research, development and strategic planning, told the Detroit Free Press that moving engineers to the powertrain and global product development groups is an "important milestone as we move fuel-cell vehicles closer to future production." However, GM is still cagey about when such a vehicle might become available.
As reported in the Detroit Free Press:
Burns wouldn’t say when GM is aiming to have a fuel-cell vehicle ready for mass commercial sale but said the automaker is clearly making strides and is confident it will be able to produce such a vehicle for mass consumption.
David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, said GM’s latest announcement "is certainly a big deal," and that he believes "GM has some tricks up its sleeve" for getting a fuel-cell vehicle out to consumers.
Analysts said automakers typically get vehicles to market three to four years after they begin production engineering.
One example is GM’s own hybrid program. A similar engineer shift from research to production divisions took place in 2003, yet there is still a dearth of GM hybrids on the showroom floor.
GM has loudly proclaimed its hopes to leapfrog Japanese fuel-efficiency technology, but if the Volt turns out to be as lackluster as the company’s current hybrid offerings, it will surely lose more than face.