Alternative power sources for autos drive into spotlight
A Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell-powered vehicle is displayed for news media on Capitol Hill in 2006.
By James R. Healey, Chris Woodyard and Sharon Silke Carty, USA TODAY
Suddenly, alternative auto power seems close.
The big Frankfurt auto show in Germany, home of the speed-limitless autobahn, bristles with vehicles aimed more at saving petroleum than gulping it. Here in the USA, General Motors (GM) is about to put the largest hydrogen fuel-cell test fleet into consumer hands, and Honda (HMC) is gearing up to launch fuel-cell, diesel and hybrid models.
Starting in January, the automaker plans to begin loaning 100 Chevrolet Equinox hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles to people in and around Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. Called Project Driveway, it involves the largest fuel-cell test fleet and will last two years.
GM will live up to its original pledge of a fall launch by putting a few of the vehicles into media test fleets this year.
The experiment is supposed to provide GM with real-world feedback on how ordinary users get along with the exotic, petroleum-free vehicles.
Fuel-cell vehicles use hydrogen gas in an electro-chemical reaction to power electric motors that drive the vehicles. Water vapor is the exhaust. The vehicles resemble ordinary Chevy Equinox SUVs, but the gasoline engine and fuel tank are replaced by fuel-cell hardware.
Because there are only a handful of hydrogen stations in the USA, GM is providing temporary filling sites that can pump the hydrogen gas at 10,000 pounds per square inch, packing more into the vehicles' fuel tanks to provide a longer driving range than possible with the 5,000-pound pressure that's typical. GM believes that 17,000 to 20,000 hydrogen stations across the USA would put the fuel within a few miles of 80% of all motorists, and within reasonable driving distance of 100%. By contrast, there are about 170,000 gasoline stations in the USA.
GM says it will provide the vehicles at no charge for about three months at a time.
GM is still choosing people to get the fuel-cell Equinoxes. You can apply at www.chevy.com. Click on "fuel solutions," then on " fuel cells."
More here: http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/...-altfuel_N.htm