Coronavirus Seems to Kill GM's Hydrogen Ambitions

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
coronavirus seems to kill gms hydrogen ambitions

Maybe the military will still be able to get one, but the cash-consuming coronavirus pandemic appears to have nixed any chance that a normal consumer will be able to slide into a fuel cell-powered General Motors vehicle anytime soon.

Good news for Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai?

Or maybe worthy of a big, fat yawn from our readers? Who friggin’ cares, you might be thinking — GM’s been chasing this unviable technology for years!

Indeed they have, going back the the 2000s, and financial constraints have now caught up to the stubbornly latent technology. Or perhaps GM just recognizes the pointlessness of pouring resources into a technology that, two decades later, is still only usable for those living near two U.S. cities?

In the automaker’s annual sustainability report, GM resolved to hold the course on its electrified future, but those consumer-bound electric motors will source their juice from big, big batteries — not mini, on-board powerplants.

As reported by CNBC‘s Michael Wayland, GM Chief Sustainability Officer Dane Parker admitted the change during a media call.

“We saw the importance of prioritizing our resources, particularly in the U.S. market to electric passenger vehicles,” Parker said, adding that the company’s green focus would henceforth be split between civilian and military/commercial customers.

Originally, GM planned to launch 20 EVs by 2023, one of which would be a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. While GM still plans to foist electric vehicles on retail consumers en masse, underpinned by a new modular architecture and powered by in-house Ultium batteries, the company’s hydrogen team will now focus solely on military and commercial buyers. You’ll recall that GM Defense began rustling up interesting Chevrolet truck variants not too long ago.

That leaves players like Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai to continue carrying the hydrogen torch in the American retail market. BMW and Mercedes-Benz remain interested in the technology’s consumer applications, too. The average buyer, of course, might not be.

[Image: Daimler]

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  • Schmitt trigger Schmitt trigger on Jul 16, 2020

    The coronavirus has provided many companies with a perfectly good alibi to modify a course without scaring the markets. An error is averted yet everyone "saves face".

    • Old_WRX Old_WRX on Jul 16, 2020

      @schmitt trigger, That is good. Now, they can get out of the hydrogen fiasco while saving face. Just say: "the corroded up virus made me do it." The difficulty of dealing with 5,000 or 10,000 psi distribution of a gas as slippery as H2 sounds daunting. Hydrogen does have one advantage as far as fires go: Hydrogen doesn't puddle like gasoline vapors do.

  • Vulpine Vulpine on Jul 16, 2020

    From what I've seen so far, hydrogen's biggest advantage is in commercial and civil services vehicles and not in privately-owned personal or family vehicles. The small size of most POVs means the amount of conversion grid area is limited, which limits the total output power of the vehicle itself. Add to this that the fuel, no matter how it is obtained, is likely to be far more expensive than wall-socket electricity, even when using a class 2 charger at home (commercial fast chargers will, of course, want as much profit as they can get away with.) So anything from roughly vehicle Class IV and up can probably be served better by hydrogen with its faster 'refueling' time and potentially longer range (depending on tank capacity.) I can see almost any major construction vehicle taking advantage of the massive torque electric motors offer while, like diesels, can run at a fixed output level for long-term operation. Railroads and OTR trucking--even commercial buses--can take advantage of the capability and realize more efficient overall operations, especially when supported by a battery pack for surge demand and regenerative braking (something flat wasted in modern railroading at the moment.)

    • See 3 previous
    • Vulpine Vulpine on Jul 17, 2020

      @indi500fan: Just so you know, that's almost exactly what they're experimenting with right now. It looks just like any other locomotive for the moment but it's loaded with batteries designed first to help get the train moving and then to assist in both ascending and descending grades. I'm hopeful that the experiment pans out because the idea isn't too different from the 'Cow and Calf' engine combinations (where one lacks the control cabin) and is little more than a concrete mass on top of the electric motors, where the 'cow' powers both itself and the attached unit. The only difference is that the 'calf' in this case is weighted with batteries and supplements the 'cow's' output power without using another Diesel engine. ---- This is a significant improvement over the hybrid 'Goats' they were trialing about 4-8 years ago (of which only one is still in use, IIRC.) @Toolguy: That's exactly the unit I was talking about. Just went into service about 1-2 months ago.

  • ToolGuy VW (marque not group) and Tesla very nearly switched positions on a YTD basis.
  • RHD Inexpensive gasoline appears to be a thing of the past. ILO is correct - we have enough sunlight, wind and emerging ocean wave energy to power the entire country and then some. Clean air is nice, and being free of the whims of OPEC, geopolitics and hugely profitable oil companies will do all of us a world of good.
  • Raymond Segura Can you tell me where I can get the rear bumper for 69 impala?
  • Art Vandelay some of the crazy numbers I get. Percentages look bigger with any fluctuations with low volume makes and brands leaving the market will see massive month over month changes. But what’s with Buick? I still see the occasional ad on TV and yet the drop is disproportionate even compared to all the other GM brands.
  • Master Baiter "There is no mandate for consumers to buy EVs, not in any country or state. That’s made up."Right. And you are not mandated to purchase a toilet that only uses 1.6 gallons/flush. You could choose to not have a toilet--just go in the woods, like the bears do.
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