February 11, 2003


GM increases range of fuel cell vehicles by 80%

Sacramento, California – General Motors has increased the range of its HydroGen3 compressed hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 80 percent with the world’s first successful test of a 10,000-PSI (700 bar) hydrogen storage system.

The HydroGen3 Zafira minivan has a range of 274 kilometres (170 miles), up from 152 kilometres (95 miles) achieved in summer 2002. It has been certified for use on public roads.

The system, which consists of two carbon composite tanks, was approved last year by Germany’s top safety institute in accordance with common industry standards in Europe and North America.

“We’re making progress,” said Larry Burns, GM vice president, research and development, and planning. “We’re confident we will get to the 300-350 mile range by 2010.”

Onboard hydrogen storage and vehicle range are key development areas in the effort to commercialize fuel cell technology for automotive applications. “For customers to buy fuel cell vehicles in large numbers, you need to have range equal to or better than the cars people drive today,” said Burns. “This gets us a good deal closer.”

The HydroGen3’s 10,000-PSI tank can store 3.1 kg of compressed hydrogen, which increases storage capacity by a factor of 1.6 over a 5,000-PSI (350 bar) system – the previous maximum capacity validated by the Technical Inspection Association (TUV) in Germany. The 10,000-PSI system also occupies roughly the same physical space as the 5,000-PSI system with a hydrogen storage capacity of 1.9 kg.

While GM has already achieved this hydrogen storage milestone, its competitors recently announced an effort to develop a 10,000-PSI system by early 2004.

The 10,000-PSI (700 bar) hydrogen storage system was developed in collaboration with GM’s strategic fuel cell partner, Quantum Fuel Systems Technology Worldwide, Inc., based in Irvine, California. The TriShield tank design features a one-piece permeation-resistant seamless liner, a high-performance carbon composite over-wrap for strength and a proprietary, impact-resistant outer shell.

In addition to TUV certification, the system has been validated according to the European Integrated Hydrogen Project (EIHP), an organization at the forefront of developing global regulatory standards for hydrogen testing and certification.

In addition, GM has moved a step closer to being able to refuel hydrogen-powered vehicles with the same ease of today’s gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles. The refueling process takes less than five minutes, made possible by feeding the hydrogen to the fuel pump at a temperature of 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 C). This avoids higher tank-filling temperatures that usually occur in the tank due to the compression of the hydrogen.

“Compressed hydrogen gives us an attractive option, along with liquid hydrogen,” said Josefin Meusinger, who is responsible for hydrogen storage systems at GM Fuel Cell Activities in Mainz-Kastel. “Now, GM and its fuel cell partners can carry out rigorous testing on high-pressure hydrogen storage.”

The filling station, developed with Linde, a hydrogen storage supplier, and installed at the Opel test site in Dudenhofen, Germany is the first high-pressure hydrogen-refueling site of its kind in the world. It is capable of reaching up to 12,328-PSI (850 bar). The high pressures are generated by powerful hydraulic differential piston-type compressors that use a new kind of sealing concept to guarantee the long-term durability of the system and ensure high purity of the hydrogen.

GM has approximately 600 people working on fuel cell technology at its three U.S. facilities in Honeoye Falls, N.Y.; Warren, Mich.; and Torrance, Calif., as well as at its research facility in Mainz-Kastel, Germany, and offices in Tokyo.

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