December 4, 2022


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By ‘land, sea and air,’ GM to expand fuel-cell business further than EVs

The U.S. Army began assessing Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 gas mobile electric truck in 2017. It is based on GM’s Colorado ZR2 off-road pickup.


General Motors’ options for hydrogen fuel cells, a extensive-promised know-how, are starting to choose condition as the company pours $35 billion into electric powered and autonomous vehicles by means of 2025.

GM began operating on fuel cells a lot more than 50 years with minor to no professional success. But it aims to transform that in coming several years with its Hydrotec gas-mobile technique, which could be a darkish horse company to increase GM’s functions outdoors of automotive.

GM sees large possibilities for gasoline cells in the military, business vehicles and other forms of transportation, these kinds of as rail and maritime. GM is checking out all those parts and extra as a complementary resolution to its emerging battery-electric powered motor vehicle enterprise, identified as Ultium.  

“Batteries have a purpose to fill, but to fully electrify and offer with the breadth of the various applications that we are speaking about, you also have to have hydrogen gasoline cells,” reported Charlie Freese, who potential customers GM’s world-wide gas cell enterprise. “They enhance each other exceptionally nicely.”

Hydrogen fuel-mobile electric powered automobiles and tools run significantly like battery-electrical kinds but are driven by electrical power created from hydrogen and oxygen rather of pure batteries, with drinking water vapor as the only by-products. They’re stuffed up with a nozzle practically as quickly as standard gas and diesel autos.

As a common rule of thumb, Freese stated, batteries are very best used to change motor vehicles and products that use gasoline, while gas cells are much better for for a longer period ranges and autos these kinds of as semitrucks that use diesel fuel.

“Every single market is heading to be a minimal little bit various, but what is clear is the world’s going towards electrification,” he explained. “The fuel cell know-how has moved down the price tag curve considerably, and it continues to do that.”

GM said last 7 days it programs to launch its 3rd-technology Hydrotec gas cells with even increased electric power density and lower expenses by mid-ten years.

Expanding GM

Gasoline-mobile motor vehicles facial area the very same challenges as BEVs, including client acceptance, fueling infrastructure and cost. It is really 1 of the good reasons GM is wanting outside of automotive to assist generate demand from customers.

GM announced Thursday a offer with Liebherr-Aerospace to develop a hydrogen fuel-cell electricity generation demonstrator technique for aircrafts. That announcement arrived two days just after the automaker said it signed a memorandum of being familiar with with Wabtec Corp. to engineer and offer battery and hydrogen fuel-mobile methods for freight locomotives.

Wabtec Corp. suggests its FLXdrive is the world’s first 100% battery-powered, heavy-haul freight locomotive.


GM also has agreements or partnerships regarding Hydrotec with Navistar and embattled EV get started-up Nikola. The programs are in addition to several prior ones between GM and the U.S. army involving hydrogen fuel cells, such as a pickup truck and an underwater unmanned vessel.

“We use sort of a land, sea and air solution,” Freese mentioned. “It is power storage density for extensive missions, rapid refueling and peaceful stealth, low thermal initiatives. These are factors that are pretty critical in people purposes. And these carry around to some of the other [industries].”

Freese reported GM expects to commercialize gas cells for real entire world solutions “soon,” declining to elaborate on these designs. GM has a joint enterprise with Honda Motor, which features a fuel-mobile automobile identified as the Clarity, to build and produce fuel cells at a plant in Michigan.

The most in the vicinity of-time period item that GM has announced is with Illinois-based mostly truck maker Navistar. The organizations before this 12 months declared a collaboration on a gas-mobile-run semitruck.

Common Motors will supply its Hydrotec gas mobile ability cubes to Navistar for use in its manufacturing design gas mobile electric powered car (FCEV) – the International RHTM Collection.


J.B. Hunt Transport is expected to be the 1st buyer to pilot the semitrucks and hydrogen fueling procedure at the stop of 2022, according to the businesses. The very first trucks are anticipated to be available for sale in 2024.

‘Uncertain’ future

But there is a escalating market for the systems amid an boost in legislations globally close to decarbonization, officials say. Fortune Business enterprise Insights forecasts the world-wide fuel-cell market will be $29 billion by 2028.

The important, as GM is concentrating on, might be bringing down the expenditures for industrial prospects, numerous of whom have established routes and on-web site fueling, somewhat than people.

“Industrial applications like metal, refining, and chemical substances the place environmentally friendly hydrogen can be created and consumed on-web site (avoids transportation expenditures) search poised to be early adopters of environmentally friendly hydrogen,” Lewis explained. “Moreover, hydrogen for industrial use is already attaining traction in some nations’ zero-emissions procedures.”

– CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.