Oct 5 General Motors Co said on Friday it
will shift its hydrogen fuel cell development program from
upstate New York, and consolidate the operation with its global
power train engineering headquarters in Pontiac, Michigan.
The move, to be completed by the end of the first quarter of
2013, will shift the operations, including research and product
engineering, from Honeoye Falls, south of Rochester, New York,
said Charlie Freese, the executive in charge of the U.S.
automaker's fuel cell programs.
Fuel cells convert a fuel, typically hydrogen, into
electricity, which can then be used to power cars and trucks.
They are a minor player in the industry's efforts to find
alternatives to gasoline-fueled engines.
However, some see zero-emission fuel cells one day being a
viable alternative if costs decrease and efficiency and
GM's first hydrogen fuel cell efforts began in 1969, but
gained steam in the late 1990s.
Freese believes fuel cell vehicles could be commercialized
by 2015 or 2016 if the infrastructure to support the technology
is sufficient, and the technology could be cost competitive by
2022. Some companies are trying to beat that timeline, said
Freese, who added GM has not announced any programs.
Freese said the industry also needs to cut costs in the fuel
cell, including further reducing the use of high-cost precious
And the industry will need to boost the sales of such
vehicles after they are introduced to drive down development
costs, he said.
"The first generation of these cars won't be profitable,"
Freese said. "It's going to take two to three generations before
that technology cost curve matures to the point that it can be a
competitive technology with some of the other alternative power
Work on gasoline- and diesel-powered engines and
transmissions is done in Pontiac, so moving the fuel cell
program will allow more sharing of knowledge and improved worker
efficiency across numerous technology platforms, Freese said.
"The ability to take someone that knows how to do a turbo
charger on a diesel engine and apply them to the compressor on a
fuel cell, those kinds of things provide a lot of advantages,"
he said in a telephone interview.
With the lease on the New York facility expiring in the
first quarter of next year, GM will be able to reduce structural
operating costs, Freese said.
GM has offered to move most of the 220 people employed in
New York to Pontiac.