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Automotive News / April 09, 2003

DETROIT -- General Motors and BMW have agreed to work jointly on developing refueling devices for liquid hydrogen vehicles, which could replace gasoline or diesel-burning cars and trucks, a GM official said Tuesday.

The two automakers announced the cooperative effort at a trade show in Hanover, Germany, on Wednesday.

GM and BMW will work to establish global standards for hydrogen refueling devices, such as the coupler to connect liquid hydrogen fueling pumps to future cars, Larry Burns, GM's head of r&d, told Reuters.

"When you're developing products and you're looking for ways to be cost-effective, sometimes you can get frustrated by all these subtle differences" in global standards, Burns said.

"Both GM and BMW are stretching to have hydrogen-based vehicles on the road by 2010," he added.

But GM and BMW are taking different routes on the road to replacing fossil fuels.

GM has invested heavily in developing fuel cells to power electric motors in vehicles, replacing the current internal combustion engines. A hydrogen fuel cell acts like a battery, converting hydrogen and oxygen into water and producing electricity to power an automobile motor or other devices.

BMW, on the other hand, is studying burning hydrogen in internal combustion engines as a more practical alternative to developing electric motors and fuel cells.

Burns said GM is also considering the benefits of compressed hydrogen as opposed to liquid hydrogen, which has to be cooled to very low temperatures. Both forms of hydrogen could be used in the future for fuel cell cars, he said.

By working with BMW, GM could speed the arrival of the infrastructure to support fuel cell vehicles, he said. GM would also like to see other automakers and automotive suppliers join their collaboration, he said.

Also on Tuesday, President Bush's plan to spend $1.3 billion in research in the next five years to develop hydrogen cars and infrastructure took a step forward when the Senate Energy Committee agreed to authorize funding.

Republican lawmakers rejected a Democratic proposal to have 100,000 hydrogen-powered cars on the highway by 2010 and 2.5 million vehicles ready by 2020.

Democrats said goals were needed to spur automakers, arguing the White House proposal stopped short of making the cars a commercial reality.

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Sounds like a good "opportunity" for GM to snag some BMW technology!

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