The car manufacturers were the next dream of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles decades – who wouldn’t want a car that runs on renewable hydrogen and only emits water vapor? But many challenges, from designing cars that can easily retain fuel, to setting up a reliable hydrogen distribution, have made it difficult to turn that dream into reality. But what if you use those fuel cells to set up a remote EV charging station or to replace a traditional gas or diesel generator for a large campground? This is what GM plans to do with its HYDROTEC fuel cell technology the company announced today.
GM’s mobile power generators, or MPGs, are pretty self-describing: they would basically allow you to bring large amounts of electricity anywhere without burning fossil fuels or expanding the local power grid. It could be useful for concerts, movie sets or neighborhoods that often lose power. (In my city outside of Atlanta, almost everyone owns a gas generator to deal with storm-related riots.)
The announcement also makes a lot of sense for GM, as it already brings its fuel cell technology in truck transport, space and railway partners. The company says MPGs will be able to spit out 60 to 600 kilowatts without generating a lot of noise or heat.
GM plans to show an MPG-powered electric vehicle charging station in mid-2022, a project co-funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the U.S. military. In addition, the California Energy Commission is investigating how MPGs could help supply power during power outages. GM is also working with Renewable Innovations to build the EMPOWER fast charger, which could deliver fast EV charging to existing stations without the need for major infrastructure improvements. Taking things to an even more extreme level, there is a large implementation of MPG that could potentially run large military camps and heavy equipment. (And as a bonus, these camps can actually use the water that MPG releases.)
While it will probably be years before MPGs can actually be introduced, it is encouraging to see GM research the use of fuel cells outside the car. Battery-powered EVs have evolved so fast that hydrogen cars don’t have much of a future (Sorry, Toyota). Therefore, it is high time we started considering other ways in which fuel cells could help.
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