Car-making giant bids to rule out fossil fuels in cars within 10 years
11 June 2007

General Motors is determined to “remove the car from the environment and energy debate” in the next 10 years by doing away with the internal combustion engine altogether. The world’s second largest car company now views hydrogen fuel cell power as the “the end game,” according to its director of advanced technology vehicle concepts Dr Christopher Borroni-Bird. Using internal combustion engines is no longer an option, and that includes diesels and hybrids. “Hybrids are not a solution,” he said. “They just delay the day of reckoning. The debate about hybrids being cleaner than diesel is irrelevant - the diesel is a dead end because it uses fossil fuels.”Dr Borroni-Bird said that hydrogen-powered and electric cars would develop alongside each other, and that GM would have a “cost-effective” fuel cell car by 2010. It will trial 100 fuel cell Equinox SUVs across the world in a market test for the car.

GM's first hydrogen production car

Dr Borroni-Bird is part of a team accelerating development of GM’s Chevrolet Volt concept car in an attempt to get it into production by 2010. Last week the company announced it has signed contracts to begin development of new high-performance lithium ion batteries, vital to getting an electric car with a useable range to market. But there is no guarantee that these batteries will be ready for use in a production car in three years. Despite this risk, GM is willing to risk spending millions on developing a car that may not have a viable propulsion system by the time its ready to go on sale. Part of GM’s strategy is to complete the “electrification” of the car, replacing mechanical systems with electrical ones such as by-wire braking and steering. These save weight and cut fuel use, and are significantly cheaper and easier to fit if the car itself is electrically driven. This idea, although not exclusive to GM, was previewed in the Autonomy and Hywire concepts, and opens up possibilities for car development that just don't exist in those powered by the combustion engine. Electric brakes and steering can be easily and quickly retuned to individual customer requirements, for example. “These vehicles aren’t just good for the environment,” said Dr Borroni-Bird. “They help make the car better.”But GM does not want to be drawn into the debate over producing electricity and hydrogen cleanly. “We will build a car that runs on renewable energy, but it’s not our responsibility to produce the fuels,” said a GM spokesman.

Dan Stevens

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