FREJUS, France - Basking in the glow of the introduction of the AUTOnomy fuel cell concept vehicle at last January's Detroit auto show, General Motors executive Larry Burns promised journalists they would be able to drive one by year end.
It was a bold promise. At the time, Burns, GM's vice president for r&d and planning, hadn't begun figuring out how to build a driveable version of AUTOnomy.
In early December, in the south of France, Burns delivered on his promise. Journalists drove the Hy-Wire concept around a course on a wind-swept former military base.
The car was heavy and expensive, illustrating just how far GM must go to bring a feasible fuel cell vehicle to the mass market. The company says 2010 is a rough guess for when a practical fuel car will be available.
But it did provide GM with a publicity counterpoint to Toyota and Honda, which at the same time garnered attention by leasing two fuel cell vehicles to municipalities in California for demonstration and fleet-duty purposes.