- The Washington Times - Friday, August 10, 2001

General Motors said this week that it had developed the world's first workable fuel cell to use gasoline, which company officials say could trim years off development of the first fuel-cell vehicles produced for consumers.

GM introduced the new technology, a gasoline fuel processor called Gen III, at the industry's annual management seminar held by the University of Michigan at Traverse City.

The new fuel cell will be installed in a Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck that already is the base for an electric vehicle developed by GM, said Bryan McCormick, co-director of GM's alternative propulsion center.

"When combined with our fuel cell stack **the mechanism that converts fuel to energy], the technology has the potential to obtain 40 percent overall energy efficiency, which is about 50 percent better than a conventional internal combustion engine," said GM vice president of research and development, Larry Burns.

The fuel cells produce electricity and heat using the chemical energy of hydrogen and oxygen extracted by the fuel processor rather than through fuel burning as in the internal combustion engine.

The use of gasoline is significant because all other fuel cells run on either pure hydrogen or hydrogen extracted from methanol, Mr. Burns explained.

"But, right now, you can't get hydrogen or methanol at your corner gas station and it would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to create such an infrastructure," he said.

"Developing gasoline-fed fuel cells makes the technology much more attainable, even within this decade."

GM is working with ExxonMobil to create a "clean" fuel without the additives needed for internal combustion engines, said Matt Fronk, the chief engineer on GM's fuel-cell program.

The use of clean fuel would make emissions of pollutants such as nitrous oxide (NOX) and hydrocarbons "pretty much nil," he said.

The system would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) attributed to fuel consumption by 50 percent.

"In the pickup truck today, that would be about a 50 percent improvement in fuel efficiency," said Mr. Fronk.

Mr. McCormick said although GM has a developmental partnership with Toyota and participates in an industry research partnership called the California Initiative, it did not plan to share the technology with other auto manufacturers.

Use of gasoline powered fuel cells won't limit companies such as GM to small vehicles, but should allow Americans in particular to continue to have the sport utility vehicles and other vehicles they now drive.

"Our consumers are telling us what kinds of vehicles they want, and the notion of downsizing is not what they want," said Mr. McCormick.

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