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Minano urges federal fuel cell effort

GM exec says former program needs new focus

DETROIT — The auto industry and the federal government should work together to develop fuel cells and a refueling infrastructure for hydrogen, the basic fuel of fuel cells, says the retiring head of General Motors’ global environmental policies.

Fuel cells could be the focal point of a new round of collaboration between automakers and the government, similar to their cooperation in the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles during the 1990s, says Dennis Minano, GM’s chief environmental officer.

Minano, 55, retires at the end of this year, ending a 30-year career at the automaker. He joined GM in 1971 as a staff lawyer. For the past nine years he has guided GM’s environmental efforts. During that time he also headed the corporate communications staff for 16 months.

Minano considers the collaboration between industry and government during the vehicle-development program to be a highlight of his career.

“PNGV was an important learning and good technical experience for the industry,” Minano says. “It did two things: Government learned about our industry, and it drove a unique collaboration between the Big 3 and the government to work on long-term technology where individual companies did not have the resources to do it.”

The challenge now, Minano says, is to revise the partnership to address new challenges.

“PNGV met its initial objectives; now it has to redefine itself,” he says. “That is the goal-setting issue. But that’s the most valuable time, I’ve found, in working with government on any issue.”

He adds: “I would want government to continue to work on long-range technologies. We still have some challenges with the fuel cell. Government has a tremendous (opportunity) to support a hydrogen infrastructure.”

Minano, a native of Detroit, says he wants to stay connected with the auto industry in some form, possibly as a consultant.

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