DETROIT - General Motors is collaborating with Toyota Motor Corp. to develop advanced powertrains for future generations of 'green' vehicles.
The two automakers will share research on fuel cells, hybrid powertrains and advanced batteries. The collaboration will last indefinitely.
The announcement comes as Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler plan to field-test a small fleet of fuel-cell-powered vehicles in California. The automakers are working with three oil companies and Ballard Power Systems Inc., a small research firm based in Vancouver, British Columbia.
During a news conference here Monday, April 19, GM Vice Chairman Harry Pearce declined to estimate the automakers' likely investment. However, the investment is likely to be substantial.
'In this case, we believe size (of the two companies) is a considerable advantage,' Pearce said. 'Together, we cover all the vehicle segments.'
Although several automakers are road-testing fuel-cell-powered vehicles, they have yet to determine the most practical fuel.
Fuel cells convert hydrogen to electricity, which powers the vehicle's motor. It is possible to convert gasoline into hydrogen, but that sharply increases the fuel cell's cost and complexity.
It is easier and cheaper to equip the vehicle with hydrogen-filled tanks. But then gasoline filling stations would require costly retrofits to handle the hydrogen. Toyota and GM will have to resolve these and other issues.
Since 1990, GM has spent at least $1 billion on advanced powertrain research.
GM also continues to fund research on new powertrains sponsored by the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles. Each of the three participants in that program, Ford, GM and DaimlerChrysler, is expected to display prototype vehicles at next year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit.