VANCOUVER, British Columbia - General Motors expects to sign new agreements for testing stationary fuel cells similar to a pact with Dow Chemical Co. unveiled recently, a GM official said.
GM, which is testing the units in its broader ffort to build fuel cells for cars, is in talks with other hydrogen producers, said Timothy Vail, a director of market development in GM's fuel cell development operation.
Vail did not name the potential partners, but he said that he expected an announcement to be made soon, Reuters reported on Monday, June 9.
"It is difficult for me to say. It took a little bit longer than I thought to get the Dow agreement closed," Vail said here.
He was in Vancouver speaking at a fuel cell industry conference.
GM and Dow Chemical said in May that the automaker would supply and test a fuel cell system to help power a Dow plant in Freeport, Texas.
The plant will supply fuel for the cells, which produce electricity via a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, rather than through combustion.
If the initial testing is successful, the cells eventually could produce as many as 35 megawatts of electricity a year for the plant, enough for 25,000 homes.
Testing is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of this year, and the companies will decide in 2005 whether to extend and expand the agreement.
Vail said GM still views its testing of stationary fuel cells as part of an effort to develop cells for cars that will be cost competitive with gasoline-powered engines.
Fuel cells are seen as an environmentally friendly alternative to standard gasoline engines because, depending on the source of the hydrogen, they generate electricity with few or no toxic emissions.
Vail and other speakers warned the conference on Monday that while fuel cells may be promoted as green power they will not win the hearts of consumers unless they also can be bought and used economically.
"Consumers are not going to take anything less than they have today," he said.
Nearly all the major automakers are looking at developing fuel cell-powered vehicles, with GM looking at having them on the road by 2010.