FLINT, Mich. - A division of General Motors has joined forces with oil companies ARCO and Exxon to conduct fuel-cell research.
The move by GM's Delphi Energy & Engine Management Systems unit is an outgrowth of its previously announced program with Chrysler Corp. to develop a fuel-cell system that runs on gasoline.
Delphi spokesman Dan Dolan said researchers will look for ways to extract hydrogen for fuel cells from gasoline in a device small enough to fit under a hood.
The research will focus on fuel processing technology and hardware for Delphi's Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cell systems, also called 'reformer' systems.
Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity. Future cars may be powered by electric motors linked to fuel cells.
Chrysler made a splash at the Detroit auto show in January by unveiling plans to develop a running, 'proof of concept' vehicle powered by a gasoline-fed fuel cell. The automaker said it plans to have the vehicle ready in 1999.
Gasoline has been cited as a potential energy source for fuel cells because it is easily available. But the gasoline must be converted, or reformed, into hydrogen before it can be used by the fuel cell. The reforming process creates carbon monoxide, which must be removed or it poisons and destroys the fuel cell.
Staff Reporter Dale Jewett contributed to this report.