Hydrogen fuel cells produce water as a byproduct. As a result cold weather performance has been the Achilles' heel of fuel cell-powered vehicles. Ice in the tailpipe shuts down the car as effectively as a potato jammed up the tailpipe of a gasoline-powered car.
Stephen Ellis, Honda's manager for fuel cell marketing, says the next-generation FCX provides significantly improved cold performance, down to -22 degrees Fahrenheit.
General Motors' "Project Driveaway" aims to get new information about the durability and performance of 100 fuel cell-powered Equinox crossovers by putting the vehicles into the hands of consumers. The program begins in January in New York, Washington and Los Angeles.
The Equinox is equipped with GM's fourth-generation fuel cell system. It doubles the power output of the company's third-generation technology. The car uses nickel-metal hydride batteries to store energy captured during regenerative braking.
The fuel cell and batteries combined deliver a total of 120 kw of power and a driving range of about 150 miles, according to Greg Cesiel, program director of fuel cell vehicles. Cesiel says the vehicle runs at temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Department of Energy is partnering with carmakers and energy companies in a program to evaluate the technical data obtained in fuel cell vehicle validation projects. The data, which are evaluated by the National Renewable Energy Labs, provide a snapshot of hydrogen fuel cell vehicle performance.
"We're seeing dramatic improvement in a number of areas," says JoAnn Milliken, the Department of Energy's hydrogen program manager. "A year ago we were seeing fuel cell durability of about 800 hours, and today we're seeing about 1,600 hours or 48,000 miles."