GM takes hydrogen fuel cell technology seriously and sees it as an important part for future zero-emissions growth in bigger vehicles. But this tech has far more commercial applications, and GM highlights some of them in its latest press release.
The automaker currently has several Hydrotec fuel cell technology projects in development, from heavy-duty trucks to aerospace and locomotives. Beyond those, GM is also planning multiple Hydrotec-based power generators, all powered by its Generation 2 Hydrotec fuel cell power cubes.
Those include a Mobile Power Generator (MPG) that will provide fast-charge capability for EVs without installing permanent charge points, the Empower rapid charger to help retail fuel stations offer affordable DC fast charging without expanding the grid, and a palletized MPG to power military camps and installations quietly and efficiently.
“Our vision of an all-electric future is broader than just passenger vehicles or even transportation. 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.”
Charlie Freese, GM executive director of the global HYDROTEC business
Mobile Power Generator
GM believes these fuel cell generators could ultimately replace gas- and diesel-burning generators, resulting in fewer emissions, while also acting as a backup or temporarily replacement for grid-sourced electricity for residential and small commercial enterprises at times of power disruption.
Each of these Hydrotec-based power generators feature zero-emissions electric power generation output ranging from 60 kilowatts to 600 kilowatts, along with low noise and heat signatures.
GM is supplying Hydrotec fuel cell power cubes to Renewable Innovations of Lindon, Utah, to build the Mobile Power Generator, which will provide fast-charging capability for EVs in places where there’s only a temporary need for power. There are several development projects involving the MPG, including a mobile charging station for EVs.
The projects are 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.
In addition, the California Energy Commission is funding a separate demonstration program of four additional MPGs through its Mobile Renewable Backup Generation Systems program. This project will 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.
Retail EV Charging Stations
Another application of the Hydrotec fuel cell technology is the Empower rapid charger that will help retail fuel stations add more affordable DC fast-charging capability.
These 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. Powered by eight GM Hydrotec power cubes, the Empower rapid charger 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 minutes.
With the tanks full of hydrogen, the rapid charger can potentially charge more than 100 EVs before needing a refill. Renewable Innovations plans to deploy 500 Empower rapid chargers across the country by the end of 2025.
Palletized mobile power generator for military applications
A separate, palletized version of the MPG is being developed by GM in partnership with GM Defense for customers like the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC), which is currently evaluating the technology.
GVSC is exploring how the palletized generator can power heavy-duty military equipment and camps. The prototype is equivalent in size to a 60-kW generator and produces nearly 70% more power than traditional diesel generators. It also has advantages not found on diesel generators, such as battery backup and output regulation, not to mention that it generates less noise and only emits water.
GM plans to build Hydrotec fuel cell systems at its Fuel Cell Systems Manufacturing joint venture with Honda in Brownstown, Michigan. The trailer-based MPG and the larger, modular EMPOWER rapid charger will be produced by Renewable Innovations at its facilities in the Salt Lake City metro area.
Check out GM Defense's hydrogen fuel cell-powered Chevy Colorado ZH2