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Fuel Cells Quietly Move Ahead

May 13, 2010
The Moving Ahead 2010 conference on sustainable transportation recently held at OSU showcased an amazing array of propulsion, fueling,  and energy storage technologies. The reality of it all was brought together at the “Ride and Drive” of the vehicles and technologies we have heard so much about. The one car that I had to get some seat time in was the Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell SUV. Our gracious and knowledgeable host of the drive was Dr. Joe Mercurio. His passion for the technology was clear and spent as much time as needed to answer our questions.


Fuel cells are essentially a battery in the loosest use of the term, as they provide DC current as the result of using hydrogen passing through a catalyst that breaks the atom into protons and electrons. The electrons are routed through an electric motor that then drives the wheels. The fuel cell experience is very much like any other car. Acceleration feels decent given the motor’s 93 kW (125 HP) output since the electric motor’s full torque is immediately available. Interestingly it is also very quiet since there is no internal combustion engine. The sounds in the cabin are a little alien since the rumble of exhaust is replaced with pumps and valves moving gases through the cell. Overall the driving experience was “normal”; in a sense giving high praise to the fuel cell SUV. The fact that there was nothing shocking or compromised in driving the super-efficient truck would suggest consumer acceptance would be easy. I would gladly drive one daily (hint hint Joe if you are looking for typical consumers for real world trials). The jury is out on fuel cells since you need a ready supply of hydrogen to keep the vehicle fueled, but should infrastructure issues be overcome, say by local hydrogen production via wind power, the long range and low operating costs make driving fuel cell vehicles a great option for daily driving.



Dr. Joe Mercurio shows off the Chevrolet Fuel Cell in the Chevy Equinox



Posted By: Kevin Arnold – EWI Energy Center