GM Plans to Expand Fuel Cell Sales Beyond Vehicles

Ken Zino of AutoInformed.com on GM Plans to Expand Fuel Cell Sales Beyond Vehicles

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General Motors (NYSE: GM) said today that it continues to expand new commercial applications of its HYDROTEC fuel cell technology. These planned fuel-cell generators could eventually replace gas- and diesel-burning generators with fewer emissions at worksites, buildings, movie sets, data centers, outdoor concerts and festivals. They could also back up or temporarily replace grid-sourced electricity for residential and small commercial enterprises at times of power disruption. Each HYDROTEC-based power generator has zero-emissions electric power generation output ranging from 60 kilowatts to 600 kilowatts, along with low noise1 and heat signatures2.

“Our vision of an all-electric future is broader than just passenger vehicles or even transportation,” said Charlie Freese, GM executive director of the global HYDROTEC business. “Our energy platform expertise with Ultium vehicle architectures and propulsion components and HYDROTEC fuel cells can expand access to energy across many different industries and users, while helping to reduce emissions often associated with power generation,” said Freese.

Mobile Power Generator

GM is supplying HYDROTEC fuel cell power cubes to Renewable Innovations of Lindon, Utah to build a Mobile Power Generator. GM will combine its fuel cell hardware and software with Renewable Innovations’ power integration and management systems to create a generator that can provide fast-charging capability for EVs without having to expand the grid or install permanent charging assets in places where there’s only a temporary need for power.

Multiple development projects involving the MPG are already in process, including a demonstration of the technology as a mobile charging station for EVs, funded in part by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Ground Vehicle Systems Center. This version of the MPG is expected to first be demonstrated in mid-2022.

“We’ve seen that there’s a need for EV charging in places where there’s no charging equipment,” said Robert Mount, CEO and co-founder of Renewable Innovations.

The California Energy Commission is funding a separate demonstration program of four additional MPGs through its Mobile Renewable Backup Generation Systems program to show how hydrogen-based mobile power can help offset the loss of energy during the planned power shutoffs used to mitigate wildfires throughout the state. This demonstration is being led by the Electric Power Research Institute, a non-profit energy research and development organization, collaborating with stakeholders like GM and Renewable Innovations to help ensure the public has safe, reliable, affordable and equitable access to hydrogen-generated electricity.

Retail EV Charging Stations

In addition to mobile EV charging, GM and Renewable Innovations have cooperated on the EMPOWER rapid charger. Intended to help retail fuel stations add more affordable DC fast-charging capability, the rapid charger will help deploy necessary fast charging without significant investment in non-recoverable electrical infrastructure upgrades, such as larger feed wires, transformers and potentially new substations. EMPOWER rapid chargers can be installed at existing fuel stations or along corridors frequented by travelers only part of the year, such as near national parks or vacation destinations.

The EMPOWER rapid charger, powered by eight GM HYDROTEC power cubes, consumes hydrogen from internal tanks and can DC fast charge as many as four vehicles simultaneously starting at 150 kW with an estimated target full charge time of 20 minutes3. More than 100 EVs can potentially be charged by the EMPOWER rapid charger before the unit would need to be resupplied with hydrogen. Renewable Innovations plans to deploy 500 EMPOWER rapid chargers across the country by the end of 2025.

 Palletized Mobile Power Generator System

GM designed a separate, palletized version of the MPG which is now being evaluated by U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC). GVSC is also exploring how this version of the MPG can power heavy-duty military equipment and camps. This prototype is equivalent in size to a 60-kW generator and produces nearly 70% more power than traditional diesel generators. This MPG variant also contains aspects not typically found on diesel generators, such as battery backup and output regulation.

Powered by a HYDROTEC power cube, this MPG prototype converts offboard, bulk-stored hydrogen to electricity generated with no emissions in operation. It generates less noise than a conventional diesel engine at full load and emits water which can be captured and repurposed in the field.

GM will produce HYDROTEC fuel cell systems using globally sourced parts at its Fuel Cell Systems Manufacturing joint venture with Honda in Brownstown, Michigan. Renewable Innovations will produce the trailer-based MPG and the larger, modular EMPOWER rapid charger at their facilities in the Salt Lake City metro area.

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Helpful Footnotes

  1. When comparing a typical diesel truck at 40 mph at 50 feet.
  2. When comparing diesel combustion exhaust temperature to any point of GM’s HYDROTEC fuel cell power cube.
  3. Actual charge times vary based on battery condition, charger output, vehicle settings and outside temperature.
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