GM Plans to Broaden Electrification, Expand Fuel Cells Beyond Vehicles

DETROIT – General Motors announced Wednesday it would expand new commercial applications of its Hydrotec fuel cell technology for use beyond vehicles and transportation.

“Our vision of an all-electric future is broader than just passenger vehicles or even transportation,” said Charlie Freese, GM executive director of the global Hydrotec business. “Our energy platform expertise with Ultium vehicle architectures and propulsion components and Hydrotec fuel cells can expand access to energy across many different industries and users, while helping to reduce emissions often associated with power generation.”

GM is planning multiple Hydrotec-based power generators, all powered by GM’s Generation 2 Hydrotec fuel cell power cubes. These include:

  • A mobile power generator, or MPG, to provide fast-charge capability for electric vehicles without installing permanent charge points.
  • The Empower rapid charger to help retail fuel stations add affordable DC fast charging without expanding the grid.
  • A palletized MPG to quietly and efficiently power military camps and installations.

These fuel cell generators could ultimately replace gas- and diesel-burning generators with fewer emissions at worksites, buildings, movie sets, data centers, outdoor concerts and festivals, GM said. They could also back up or temporarily replace grid-sourced electricity for residential and small commercial enterprises at times of power disruption.

Each of these Hydrotec-based power generators feature zero-emissions electric power generation output ranging from 60 kilowatts to 600 kilowatts, along with low noiseand heat signatures.

GM is supplying Hydrotec fuel cell power cubes to Renewable Innovations of Lindon, Utah to build theMPG. GM will combine its fuel cell hardware and software with Renewable Innovations’ power integration and management systems to create a generator that can provide fast-charging capability for EVs without having to expand the grid or install permanent charging assets in places where there’s only a temporary need for power.

Multiple development projects involving the MPG are already in process, including a demonstration of the technology as a mobile charging station for EVs, funded in part by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Ground Vehicle Systems Center. This version of the MPG is to first be demonstrated in mid-2022.

“As pioneers and innovators in the hydrogen power space, Renewable Innovations sees exciting opportunities across consumer, business, government and industrial markets,” said Robert Mount, CEO and co-founder of Renewable Innovations. 

The California Energy Commission is funding a separate demonstration program of four additional MPGs through its Mobile Renewable Backup Generation systems program to show how hydrogen-based mobile power can help offset the loss of energy during the planned power shutoffs used to mitigate wildfires throughout the state.

This demonstration is being led by the Electric Power Research Institute, the preeminent independent, non-profit energy research and development organization, collaborating with stakeholders like GM and Renewable Innovations to help ensure the public has safe, reliable, affordable and equitable access to hydrogen-generated electricity.

In addition to mobile EV charging, GM and Renewable Innovations have collaborated on the Empower rapid charger. Intended to help retail fuel stations add more affordable DC fast-charging capability, the Empower rapid charger will help deploy necessary fast charging without significant investment in non-recoverable electrical infrastructure upgrades, like larger feed wires, transformers and potentially new substations.

Empower rapid chargers can be installed at existing fuel stations or along corridors frequented by travelers only part of the year, such as near national parks or vacation destinations.

The Empower charger consumes hydrogen from internal tanks and can DC fast charge as many as four vehicles simultaneously starting at 150 kW with an estimated target full charge time of 20 minutes. More than 100 EVs could potentially be charged before the unit would need to be resupplied with hydrogen.

Renewable Innovations plans to deploy 500 Empower rapid chargers across the country by the end of 2025.

GM has also designed a separate, palletized version of the MPG, which is now being evaluated by U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Ground Vehicle Systems Center. GVSC is also exploring how this version of the MPG can power heavy-duty military equipment and camps. This prototype is equivalent in size to a 60-kW generator and produces nearly 70 percent more power than traditional diesel generators. This MPG variant also contains features not typically found on diesel generators, like battery backup and output regulation. 

Renewable Innovations will produce the trailer-based MPG and the larger, modular Empower rapid charger at their facilities in the Salt Lake City metro area.

Pictured: GM and Renewable Innovations are collaborating on an EMPOWER rapid charger that can help retail fuel stations add more affordable DC fast-charging capabilities without significant investment in non-recoverable infrastructure upgrades. (Image: GM)

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.