General Motors has unveiled its fourth zero emission, hydrogen fuel cell propelled prototype. Based on a Chevrolet Equinox SUV, HydroGen4 showcases a number of improvements over the previous edition, and with a production run of a 100 or so units, will be built in significantly greater quantities.
GM's aim is to be offering hydrogen fuel cell cars to the public by 2015.
Key improvements over the previous HydroGen3 include the ability to start in sub-zero temperatures - a considerable challenge for a fuel cell vehicle - increased range from a fill of hydrogen, improved performance, quieter operation and improved durability. Day-to-day maintenance of the car is also reduced.
A batch of 10 HydroGen4's will be operated by customers in Berlin as part of the German government-backed Clean Energy Partnership, which is gathering day-today operating experience with hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles as part of a wider programme to make these low emission vehicles viable.
Mercedes, BMW and Ford are also participating. Considerable hurdles remain before hydrogen fuel cell vehicles become viable, not least the establishment of a hydrogen station network across the continent, and a significant reduction in the cost of making fuel cell vehicles.
GM believes that annual production of around a million fuel cell stack would be required to make these vehicles price competitive, which will require simultaneous commitment from several manufacturers to achieve.