GM celebrates 50 years of hydrogen fuel cell development

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This year marks 50 years since General Motors developed its Electrovan, the world’s first hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle, which was used as a rolling testbed to explore hydrogen as a method of vehicle propulsion.

Electrovan project manager Floyd Wyczalek, who headed up a 200-strong team, said, “We had three shifts of people working on this project, which started in January 1966 and finished 10 months later. We had one running demo for the Progress of Power press conference in October that year.”

“Fuel cell durability was tested over a period of several months in a test cell. Driving acceleration and top speed tests were conducted on a chassis dynamometer,” Wyczalek added.

Since then GM has invested more than US$2.5bn in hydrogen fuel cell technology. It is among the patent leaders, along with Honda, which has been its collaborator since 2013 in developing a next-generation system that will be much more powerful and only a fraction of the size of the equipment-crammed Electrovan, which had room only for a driver and two passengers.

Following the end of the project, the Electrovan was stored in a warehouse in Pontiac, Michigan, for 31 years before it was rediscovered in 2001 after which it was assigned for use in fuel cell displays and loaned to museums when it was not at home in the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights in Michigan.

November 2, 2016

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Dean has been with UKi Media & Events for over a decade, having previously cut his journalistic teeth writing and editing for various automotive and engineering titles. He combines extensive knowledge of all things automotive with a passion for driving, and experience testing countless new vehicles, engines and technologies around the world. As well as his role as editor-in-chief across a range of UKi's media titles, he is also co-chair of the judging panel of the International Engine + Powertrain of the Year Awards.

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