Since General Motors and Honda teamed to develop hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles two years ago, the partners have slashed the size, weight and cost of the fuel cell stack, the chemical processor that combines hydrogen and oxygen to make electricity that powers the vehicle.
Charlie Freese, GM’s head of global fuel cell engineering, spoke with Staff Reporter Richard Truett.
Q: Does the fuel cell stack continue to shrink?
A: Absolutely. It shrinks in active area [the part of the cell that produces electricity]. And it shrinks in the height of the stack, the number of cells and how much current we can put through it. All the stuff that makes it work also shrinks: the compressors, injectors and all the manifolding. There is a lot of opportunity there.
How’s the progress on the fuel cell stack?
It’s coming down very, very quickly in terms of precious metal loading. The workhorse fuel cell stacks have 29 grams of platinum. The next-gen stack is down in the 10 gram range. The next generation is running in our laboratory now. Weight is down by almost one half. Size is also down by almost one half. And cost has come down in orders of magnitude.
Why did GM and Honda partner?
A fuel cell has got some parts that you just have to standardize and get the volume up. Doing that alone in a low-volume environment will always be a tough scenario.
Will the product share components?
The idea is we have a single part number between both companies. So we can get the scale and reduce the cost of development.