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By Ben Oliver
11 December 2008 15:30
General Motor’s new HydroGen4 is the latest proof that fuel-cell cars are advancing at an astonishing rate; trouble is, they have so far to go. Hydrogen-powered cars are still light years away from being affordable and practical, but this one comes closer to looking, working and driving like a conventional car than any we’ve yet driven.
It deserves your attention; partly because it’s a very smart bit of automotive engineering, and partly because despite all the recent hype over plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles, there are still plenty of clever people who think that cars like the GM Hydrogen 4 represent the real future of driving.
You fill up with compressed hydrogen from something that looks like a regular pump; it takes no longer than brimming a petrol tank. The hydrogen flows into the fuel cells, where it is split into protons and electrons, the electrons creating a current that drives the electric motor. They recombine with oxygen to create only water vapour as a by-product.
But of course you have to make the hydrogen - which requires energy – and get it to the forecourt. And you have to make the fuel cell; these HydroGen4s still cost GM around £400,000 to make, and it will be 2015 before the price will decline to something semi-sensible.
Firstly, GM has built more of these HydroGen4s than any previous fuel-cell car; 100 are going into daily use around the world with families and businesses. We drove one in Berlin, where ten will be based, using the city’s government-sponsored hydrogen filling stations.
GM has built previous HydroGens using Zafira bodyshells; this one uses the US Chevy Equinox crossover as a host. This new version is more powerful at 93kW and carries more hydrogen, with 4.2kg compressed at a massive 700bar giving a range that has increased 30 miles to 200 miles.
Its fuel-cell stack is radically different with 440 cells, twice as many as the old car giving much better reliability. It will operate down to -25 degrees; previous versions would just freeze up. And it has all been built into something resembling a proper car, rather than the four-wheeled science project that was the HydroGen3.
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GM HydroGen4 concept car (2008) CAR review
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RE: GM HydroGen4 green CAR review
Sossages - thanks for pointing out its your wife not you that owns an Outback not a Forrester. Sorry I do get confused in this blandness a bit! Can I also point out your factual inaccuracy, that I do not own an X6, it's a year away and comes with the pitter patter of tiny feet. Yes I do agree it's comparing style with substance. Being dull, well to each his own and feel free to post on Gavin Greens recent 'best utility vehicle' I'm sure you could go on for pages about the topic. I agree with you the Caterham goes round the Top Gear test track quicker than a Bugatti Veyron. What's your point? Mine is fuel efficiency is unneccessary except in high fuel tax Europe to AVOID TAX. Is a Caterham built to avoid tax? Or is it built to go round a track fast as possible (ie. nothing at all to do with fuel efficiency)?
23 December 2008 15:22
Atomic - I post here because I luv cars and have done since I first saw a Mustang aged 5 or 6. You advise me not to speculate then do so on why I post! Fascinating stuff. I'm quite clear why I changed from a 911 Turbo to a 335d coupe. Apart from being better quality, more refined and comfy all round (ignoring a £60k price differential!) the BMW delivered almost as much power while not hitting you in the wallet so hard on long drives across Europe. As I've repeated had i been living in America I doubt I'd have chosen the 335d and may well have stuck with a new Turbo if the bump-thump had improved by a margin or two or maybe even an M3 V8. The difference is tax (high fuel tax and fuel duty) in Europe and zero to do with efficiency. And as for "putting my money where my mouth is" like all consumers I don't give a flying fig for efficiency and we never will and no I can't even be bothered to spell it correctly... I leave that to people with more education than sense
23 December 2008 15:08
Lord Bavarias' stated fact ;- power everything, efficiency nothing. Please explain then how a £37k 1999cc 4 cylinder 263bhp Caterham R500 nailed together by a couple of decent chaps in a shed gave a £840k 8 litre 16 cylinder 987bhp over weight and over engineered Bugatti Veyron a "good thrashing" (J.B.s term) around the Top Gear track. Not only is the Caterham far more efficient in its use of power but I reckon it is far more fun to drive, especially when you consider "efficiency is a droll, dull budgetory constraint (producing) cars targetted at tax breaks for engines under 2 litres" How can anyone with a straight face put the X6 and "Efficiency Dynamics" in the same sentence.
17 December 2008 14:26
Outback - nice car. Elegant. A sign of taste and conviction. Agree with all that you say, sossages.
16 December 2008 22:37
JB, or Lord Bavaria if you prefer, may I point out yet another of your factual inaccuracies? I do not, nor ever have owned a Forrester. I bought my wife an Outback 3.0. This has certain similarities to your X6 in being a "2 box" design, 3.0 litre 6 cylinder engine, 4 wheel drive and raised ground clearance. There, I am releived to say, the similarity ends. The Outback is non statement substance before style. The X6 is LOOK AT ME style(?) before substance. I really don't care if your X6 would give my wife's Outback a good thrashing on forrest tracks, but doubt it as any motoring engineer would realise the outback has a far lower centre of gravity and is much lighter and also Subaru know a thing or two about rallying! In my experience the Outback is specifically designed for driving on unmetalled roads and handles superbly in such conditions. I suspect the X6 is not (although I wouldn't be seen dead in one so I have no experience) but that said it would be the perfect vehicle to turn up at one of Max Moseley's parties for a good German Thrashing! Both these cars, however, are examples of why efficiency needs improved.
16 December 2008 16:41
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