GM, Toyota Dismiss Fuel Cells for Mass Use

By | March 16, 2008

GM Toyota Dismiss Fuel Cells for Mass Use

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that executives from General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., at the Geneva Auto Show Tuesday, “expressed doubts about the viability of hydrogen fuel cells for mass-market production in the near term and suggested their companies are now betting that electric cars will prove to be a better way to reduce fuel consumption and cut tailpipe emissions on a large scale.”

Both GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz and Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe expressed strong opinions that fuel cells are too expensive and will be for some time and that advances in lithium-ion batteries make them much more practical as a mass-market product.  . . . read the WSJ article

in a somewhat related post, the MIT Technology Review has a little more information on GM’s BAS+ mild hybrid system that further explains how the Hitachi Li-ion batteries fit in with that system that increase the mileage by 20% and indicates that GM will use about 100,000 of these batteries annually by 2010.

The new battery pack, a lithium-ion pack made by Hitachi, combined with an improved alternator-generator, can deliver three times more power than the company’s older system, which used nickel metal hydride batteries. GM claims that this system will be a perfect complement to another fuel-saving strategy: downsizing the engine and adding a turbocharger for bursts of power. The turbocharger doesn’t kick in right away, and it doesn’t work well at low engine speeds. But the battery and motor kick in right away, compensating for the so-called turbo lag.

That is quite a change in attitude, considering the large amounts of money that these companies and others have spent developing fuel cells for light vehicles. This agrees with my assessment of the technology that I have expressed several times, most recently in my comments on my post EU Research Shows that Hydrogen Energy Could Reduce Oil Consumption in Road Transport by 40% by 2050. – thefraserdomain

2 thoughts on “GM, Toyota Dismiss Fuel Cells for Mass Use

  1. Irv Miller

    The WSJ headline and story stating that GM and Toyota are “doubtful” about the mass use of fuel cells is an example of sloppy reporting, at its finest. I will not speak for GM, but as for Toyota, hydrogen fuel cells will play a major role in our sustainable mobility strategy.
    • Our current FC technology is robust, reliable and durable. Our prototypes have a range of nearly 400 miles and are fully operational in sub-freezing climates, as evidenced by our recent 2300-mile drive from Fairbanks, Alaska to Vancouver British Columbia.
    • Cost reduction and infrastructure are the remaining hurdles. The former will be met by Toyota’s engineering and production savvy. The latter will require creative partnerships.
    • At Toyota, hydrogen fuel cell technology has already moved beyond mere compliance with zero-emissions government mandates. It is now all about market preparedness.
    • The arrival of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles at a Toyota dealership near you is not “just around the corner.” There are huge challenges ahead. But we are convinced they will be part of our future. And we will be there.
    There is no silver bullet. We are in this for the long run!

  2. GotBoost

    Turbo Lag is such a thing of the past. Read Corky Bells book and you will find turbo lag is simply an excuse for a poorly chosen turbocharger for application.

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