GM hydrogen fuel cells mark 50 years

Several fuel cell demo programs have helped GM amass over 3.1 million miles of experience on modern fuel cell systems

November 18, 2016
by Canadian Automotive Review Staff

From the October 2016 print edition

The year 1966 saw General Motors test the Electrovan, the world’s first hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle. If we then fast-forward to 2016: GM has invested more than $2.5 billion in hydrogen fuel cell technology and is among patent leaders along with Honda, its collaborator since 2013, in developing a next-generation system that the company says will be more powerful but a fraction of the size of the Electrovan.

Several fuel cell demo programs have helped GM amass more than 3.1 million miles of real-world experience on modern fuel cell systems, the company said. On October 3 2016, at the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) annual meeting and exhibition in Washington, D.C., GM revealed its latest fuel cell demo, the Chevrolet Colorado ZH2. The vehicle is an off-road midsize pickup that the US Army says it plans to test in extreme conditions.

The Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 went from contract to completion in about 10 months, which GM said is the same amount of time as the Electrovan. It will be the first fuel cell vehicle to wear the GM Hydrotec badge, a familial tie to the Ecotec gasoline engines.

The Electrovan was a test vehicle to explore hydrogen as an energy source for vehicles. Following the end of the project the Electrovan was stored in a Pontiac, Michigan, warehouse for 31 years before being rediscovered in 2001 and assigned for use in fuel cell displays and loaned to museums when not at home in the GM Heritage Center.