Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chevrolet's Project Driveway Update

Chevrolet began Project Driveway in October 2007 with the intent of putting 100 + fuel cell vehicles into the hands of the public for testing. The lucky recipients would get to use the vehicles and then report data and findings back to Chevrolet for analysis. All that we know is that the Project is nearing 500,000 miles. It would be helpful if Chevrolet would release some data to the public instead of just a total number of miles driven. For example, how many people have been stranded, how many have run out of hydrogen, how far can the cars go on a fill up? Do the fuel cells and their range hold up over time? So many questions, so few answers.

To me, this has been the problem with fuel cell technology. How do you create the hydrogen delivery infrastructure and who pays for it? What is going to be the cost of the hydrogen cell vehicle? It currently costs about a million per. What will the price of hydrogen be at the pump and will the government have to subsidize it? How long do fuel cells last? Currently, they only last about 50,000 miles, which is pathetic.

Finally, why are we interested in using hydrogen fuel cells to make electricity for a car? Why not just plug the car into an outlet to get electricity? The infrastructure is already in place and is amazingly cheap. Hydrogen is neither.

Even with favorable results from Project Driveway, hydrogen fuel cells are destined for the trash heap. I can see no way around the roadblocks I mentioned above. What is your take? Tell me if you disagree!

From Green Car Congress:

"Chevrolet’s Project Driveway program&mash;the largest endeavor yet to put fuel cell vehicles on real roads—now has more than 100 vehicles out on the road, and will have logged 500,000 miles of fuel cell driving by Christmas.

The Project Driveway program began in Oct 2007 and will run through the end of 2010. Project Driveway puts Equinox electric vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells into the hands of drivers to gain real world experience and learning. More than 3,400 individuals have driven the fuel cell Equinox, either in short drives at media programs or special events, or as part of longer loan.

Prior to Project Driveway, no one had put 100+ fuel cell vehicles on the road. The program is mainly in the US., although some vehicles were sent to Europe and Asia. In the US, the vehicles are being placed with media, public policy leaders, business partners, celebrities and “regular” customers who have raised their hands via the internet.

Drivers generally have the vehicles for two months, although some placements, such as those with business partners Disney and Virgin Atlantic, run for the entire program. Jay Leno has been driving a fuel cell Equinox since April.

The vehicles are production Chevrolet Equinoxes, outfitted with GM’s fourth-generation fuel cell propulsion system."

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