GM Pushing Fuel-Cell Engineers to Production

June 15, 2007: Source – Detroit Free Press

GM Volt Nameplate

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.

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  • Richard

    done wright with the experience GM has from the EV1 and new hybrids the Volt could indeed leapfrom Toyota two steps.

  • Elliot

    “The series-hybrid Volt idea features two possible propulsion methods: either fuel cells or electric motors”

    I don’t quite follow this statement. How will a fuel cell replace an electric motor?

  • jm

    I think they mean the volt will either be fuel cells poweriong the electric motor, or extended range batteries powering the electric motor.

  • Jim

    The volt moves by an electric motor. The power for that motor can come from two places:1 the stored energy in it’s onboard batteries (can be charged by plugging in), 2 from an onboard generator powered by either a fuel cell or a combustion engine. If you drive too far for the energy stored in it’s batteries, the fuel cell or combustion engine will come on and recharge the batteries.

  • Steve C

    I won’t believe GM til I see it. Everything they do now is more spin than substance. I think this is a ploy to get the stock price up so top dogs can get a bonus. Sorry to be so cynical but to me they are a lousy company with more schemes than real products. My $.02

  • Elliot

    I guess my point was that the statement in the article doesn’t really make any sense.

    Like Steve C, I don’t really trust GM’s motives. However, it does seem like a vehicle with great potential. Hopefully they follow through to market. I would certainly be intereted in buying one.

  • Zepmoon

    I’m skeptical of GM’s ability to push a hybrid car to market and maintain quality control. Does anyone remember when GM “pushed” a diesel car to market in the late 1970′s? It was a total quality disaster and set the introduction of diesel cars in the US back a couple decades. GM – please – take your time and deliver a product that works as advertised!

  • AP

    The first Toyota that used in the US (in the mid-1960′s) on a PR tour broke down so often they had to finish in an American car. They learned from that.

    Believe it or not, so can Americans. Skepticism is healthy, but be open-minded.

  • Mike

    I won’t believe GM til I see it. Everything they do now is more spin than substance. I think this is a ploy to get the stock price up so top dogs can get a bonus. Sorry to be so cynical but to me they are a lousy company with more schemes than real products. My $.02

    I agree with you, Steve C.

  • Mike

    I won’t believe GM til I see it. Everything they do now is more spin than substance. I think this is a ploy to get the stock price up so top dogs can get a bonus. Sorry to be so cynical but to me they are a lousy company with more schemes than real products. My $.02

    I agree with you, Steve C.

  • ETM

    What I am trying to wrap my head arround is the E-Flex system. The flexability comes in you have a battery and the power for said battery can come from a number of sources: grid, and/or ICE (flex fuel?), and/or Fuel cell, and/or solar. One wounders home much tuning and swapping will be possible with this system.

  • Steven B.

    The E-flex system is a series-hybrid design, or what can be described as a range-extending electric vehicle system. The design offers extreme flexiblity. The concept introduced in January was shown with a GM flex-fuel tubocharged engine that can run on E85 to E0 gasoline, they announce the prospect of the system being available with a diesel engine (which can of course be flex-fuel diesel capable of using up to B100, if such an engine is available), as well as hydrogen fuel cells. The powerplant is has bifurcated: the electric motor and range extender. The batteries will likely be available eventually in different sizes with different ranges. All designs will be gridable, but the ICE model in development has a range of 40 miles without range extension (which covers the daily commute of about 75% of Americans) and the fuel-cell has a range of 20 miles without range extension. Total range for the ICE model in development will be 640 to 750 miles, and the fuel cell version is expected to have a total range of around 300 miles. Solar is not considered in anyway viable due to various issues including weight, but it is under consideration for being a secondary power source for non-motive applications like air conditioning.

    The best source for more information is http://www.gm-volt.com

    And from my p.o.v. the GM Volt is the harbinger of the 21st century auto industry, and not “vaporware” as many critics have suggested. GM spent around $1 billion dollars on the EV1 program and obviously lost almost all of it, and considering their current financial condition, I’m certain they’re looking to make that money back. Furthermore, GM has been extremely transparent with this program, and it has been continuously demonstrated to be an accelerated development program since the Detroit Auto Show in January. I’m extremely optimistic that a Chevy Volt can be my next car. I drive an ’05 Civic Hybrid now, by the way. I hope others can get as excited as I am. I hope this is informative and not fluffy. That my $.02 as y’all say.

  • HJABUTDA

    I WISH HYBRID CARS WERE CHEAPER

  • Kajauwaka

    BUYAKASHA! BOATS ARE BETTER!