Encouraging signs for fuel cells

The US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development & Engineering Center (TARDEC) and GM are jointly testing fuel cells. Photo credit: General Motors

The US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development & Engineering Center (TARDEC) and GM are jointly testing fuel cells. Photo credit: General Motors

Last week we took a look at fuel-cell vehicles and concluded that, although they represent an exciting future prospect, they are unlikely to make a big impact any time soon. When we turn to non-vehicle fuel cell energy storage, the signs are much more promising, as we’ll see in this concluding part of our analysis.
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Car fuel cells: the road ahead

GM has accumulated nearly 3 million miles of real-world driving in a fleet of 119 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles since 2007. Photo credit: General Motors

GM has accumulated nearly 5 million kilometres of real-world driving in a fleet of 119 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles since 2007. Photo credit: General Motors

Today we’ll be taking a look at an energy storage medium that’s very much in the news at the moment, with various auto-manufacturers announcing hydrogen-powered vehicles, fuel cells increasingly being used for off-grid energy supply and back-up, and innovations in the production of hydrogen. So let’s kick off with cars.

The current star of the electric vehicle (EV) show, at least in terms of media coverage, is Tesla Motors, a company that uses packs of multiple Panasonic lithium-ion batteries that would otherwise be destined for laptops. General Motors (GM) has announced it plans to outsmart and out-compete Elon Musk’s company by offering vehicles with specially designed energy packs.
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GM to beat Tesla on batteries

GM has expanded its electric vehicle battery systems laboratory in Michigan. Photo: © General Motors

GM expands its electric vehicle battery systems laboratory in Michigan. Photo: © General Motors

Earlier this week General Motors made a bold statement of intent: to sell a production-line electric vehicle at half the price of Tesla’s Model S, with a similar range. And GM says it will be able to offer the vehicle at USD$30,000 thanks to the development of its own lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery technology, according to a Reuters report.
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Price cut for Chevrolet Volt next year

Chevy Volt electric car.

Chevy Volt electric car. Photo credit: General Motors

The Chevrolet Volt, recognised for having the most satisfied owners, will soon come with another people pleaser: a lower price. The 2014 model will start at USD$34,995, including an $810 destination fee (excluding tax, title, license and dealer fees). If consumers include federal tax credits of up to $7,500, pricing could start at $27,495.
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Johnson Controls batteries for Chevy

The Chevy Malibu, powered by a Johnson Controls AGM battery. Photo credit: General Motors

The Chevy Malibu, powered by a Johnson Controls AGM battery. Photo credit: General Motors

Johnson Controls, which claims to be the world’s leading supplier of automotive batteries, is providing its advanced Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) battery technology to power Chevrolet’s 2014 Malibu, featuring Start Stop technology. The technology will increase the 2014 Malibu’s fuel economy by an estimated 5%. In a Start Stop system, the car’s engine will shut off when the driver comes to a stop or idles.
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Lithium-ion battery production picks up

Naoto Noguchi, President of Panasonic Energy Company, with Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors.

Naoto Noguchi, President of Panasonic Energy Company, with Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors. Photo credit: Panasonic

Two lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery makers have seen an uptick in production, according to press reports last week. LG Chem started production at its Michigan, USA, manufacturing facility last month, media such as MLive confirmed.
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Honda, GM join in hydrogen work

Just days after the media splash over Toyota’s mass-market hydrogen-powered vehicle ambitions comes news that rivals Honda and GM have got into bed to produce their own H2 vehicles by 2020. Answering doubts about the distribution of refueling facilities, GM and Honda say they will work with local governments and others to expand the available network of hydrogen stations as part of their collaboration.