Hydrogen-powered fuel cell SUVs were among the broad lineup of alternative-fuel vehicles General Motors Fleet and Commercial Operation (FCO) offered to fleet customers and dealers during a weeklong ride-and-drive event last month in Las Vegas.
The modified Equinox SUVs are part of a 100-vehicle fuel-cell fleet currently undergoing field and customer testing. The goal is to develop commercial versions of the technology, which the company said delivers the equivalent of 100 to 150 mpg with no tailpipe or greenhouse emissions.
On a more practical level, the company also had 29 commercially available vehicles on hand for test drives, including E85 ethanol “FlexFuel” vans and pickups as well as its new for 2009 diesel-electric, “two-mode” hybrid Silverado/Sierra full-size pickup.
GM has already spent over $1 billion developing fuel-cell technology, which represents the “endgame” in efforts to move away from petroleum-based vehicle fuels, according to John Gaydash, FCO director of marketing. Efforts “over the next five years to create an infrastructure [for hydrogen fueling] will shape the next 50 years,” he says.
In GM's view, the best near-term solution is ethanol derived from non-grain biomass sources, according to Gaydash. Biodiesel and diesel-electric hybrids represent the next steps on the road to significantly lowering petroleum consumption, he says.
Commercial vehicle highlights from the ride-and-drive event included a new Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana 4500 cutaway chassis that is expected to go into production later this summer. Offered with both a Duramax 6.6L V8 diesel and 6.0L Vortec V8 gasoline engine, the new cutaway features a 14,200-lb. GVW and payloads up to 9,050 lbs.
At the lighter end, the midsize Chevrolet Canyon/GMC Colorado was shown with a variety of bodies for vocational chores previously handled by GM's discontinued midsize cargo van.