Automakers have been chasing the dream of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for decades – who wouldn’t want a car that runs on renewable hydrogen and emits only water vapor? But many challenges, from designing cars that can easily store the fuel, to establishing reliable hydrogen delivery, have made that dream a reality. But what if you used these fuel cells to set up a remote electric vehicle charging station or to replace a traditional gas or diesel generator with a large campsite? That’s what GM is planning to do with its HYDROTEC fuel cell technology, the company announced today.
GM’s mobile power generators, or MPGs, are pretty self-describing: they basically let you take massive amounts of electricity anywhere without burning fossil fuels or expanding a local power grid. It can be useful for concerts, movie sets, or neighborhoods that frequently lose power. (In my city outside of Atlanta, almost everyone has a gas generator to handle storm-related outages.)
The announcement also makes a lot of sense for GM as it is already bringing its fuel cell technology to truck transport, aerospace and rail partners. The company says the MPGs will be able to spit out 60 to 600 kilowatts without producing much noise or heat.
GM plans to showcase an EV charging station with MPG in mid-2022, a project co-funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the US Army. Additionally, the California Energy Commission is exploring how MPGs can help provide energy during shutdowns. GM is also working with Renewable Innovations to build the EMPOWER fast charger, which can provide EV fast charging to existing stations without the need for major infrastructure upgrades. Taking things to an even more extreme level, there is a large MPG implementation that could potentially power large military fields and heavy equipment. (And as a bonus, these camps can actually use the water that the MPG emits.)
While it will likely be years before MPGs can actually be deployed, it’s encouraging to see GM explore uses for fuel cells outside of cars. Battery-powered EVs have evolved so quickly that hydrogen-powered cars don’t have much of a future (sorry, Toyota). So it’s time to start considering other ways fuel cells can help.
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