Continued from page 1

Mr. Samuelsen, whose researchers are helping test three Toyota hydrogen fuel-cell cars, said GM is a little behind Toyota and Honda for fuel-cell leadership, but may take the lead when it sends out the 100 vehicles later this year.

He said the five- to six-year time frame for wider testing is realistic, especially given GM’s commitment this year.

Once the wider testing areas are set up and engineers can check real-world performance, Mr. Burns said he expects fuel-cell vehicles and the necessary filling stations to spread gradually throughout the world.

“If you learn enough and you’re encouraged enough, then you go to that next generation and put more vehicles out there. That stimulates more stations. You can broaden your geographical area,” Mr. Burns said.

The obvious benefits are ending America’s dependence on petroleum for transportation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Given the issues that we’re facing as a society, man, you’ve got to get on with this,” Mr. Burns said. “Part of getting on with it is this transfer of these 500 people.”