GM to emergency-charge BEVs without diesel

For years, Toyota has been talking about its plans to make hydrogen fuel-cell cars and, more recently, fuel-cell ships and commercial trucks (big rigs). General Motors has been working on similar lines, and recently announced a new “Hydrotec” line of hydrogen fuel cell products for a wide variety of purposes.

The benefits of hydrogen are it can be made in a “green” fashion, and burns extremely cleanly. Most hydrogen today is made from natural gas, using fossil fuel energy, but some groups are working on generating hydrogen from wind turbines when their contributions are not needed by the electrical grid. In Austria, a large electricity supplier is using hydrogen to store excess energy from solar and wind, to supplement natural gas when needed.

BEV skateboard design for Chrysler Airflow
BEV skateboard design for Chrysler Airflow

GM claimed that their Hydrotec system would include generators to quietly power military camps, locomotives, heavy duty trucks, and airplanes. One possibility which supports electric cars is creating a rapid charger which would “refuel” electric cars without expanding the grid.

Smaller hydrogen powered generators could provide an answer to the question of, “What do you do when a BEV runs out of power?” Tow trucks, rather than towing the BEV cars to a charging station, could give the stranded cars enough power to make it to the charger on their own, and do so without a diesel generator. That would end the likely rare but embarrassing event of an electric car being rescued by diesel.

Even without environmental mandates, Tesla has proven that many customers find electric cars to be highly desirable—desirable enough to deal with extremely poor quality and having single dealerships in each state. Hydrogen-powered generators could not only help with places where battery-electric vehicles may never be practical, such as long-haul trucks and locomotives; they could also provide quiet, near-zero-emissions recharges when needed.

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