The Zero-Emission Hydrogen-Fueled Chevy
It’s been said many times in the last decade: our reliance on fossil fuels must end. In pushing forward this goal, many vehicle manufacturers have marketed their offerings in alternative-fueled vehicles—most of them hybrids combining the use of battery power with traditional internal combustion for lowered use of gasoline. If we are to truly reach this goal, however, we must eliminate the use of fossil fuels altogether—and that is where future solutions such as the Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell SUV come into play.
With this SUV, Chevrolet is most definitely out to show that alternative fuel vehicles can be practical and fun. Seeing it up close, it has the first-glance appearance of a typical mid-size SUV, with all the room and functionality that entails. It seats four and sports 32 cubic feet of cargo space and has the features you’d expect, such as air-conditioning, a navigation system and a sound system.
But that is where the similarities pretty much end, for the fuel powering this SUV is that of the future. “It is an electric vehicle,” Shad Balch, Western Region Environment & Energy Policy and Communications Director for General Motors explained to Organic Connections. “But instead of having a big battery that you recharge, the vehicle actually creates electricity on-board. It does that using compressed hydrogen gas.”
The hydrogen is converted into electricity using a fuel-cell system under the hood in the front of the vehicle. The system consists of a stack of fuel cells that serve as a membrane, through which a combination of hydrogen and outside air is forced. By this process, electrons are separated out and fed down to the electric motor, leaving behind water molecules. The water molecules are then ejected—the only emission from the Equinox.
It is simply the lack of hydrogen refueling stations and sustainable production of hydrogen—the practical infrastructure needed to support using such vehicles on the road—that is keeping the Equinox Fuel Cell SUV from broad release. “The Equinox Fuel Cell SUV is part of our demonstration that the vehicles are here, they work well, and they’re not just some science project,” said Balch. “We’re saying to energy companies and government, let’s all join in and start building pumps.”
In certain areas, especially in California, you might actually see one of these vehicles on the road, thanks to General Motors’ Project Driveway, which has placed 100 of them in the hands of everyday drivers for feedback, close to nearby fueling stations.
One such driver is Los Angeles–based wildlife photographer Wayne Williams, who has been extremely impressed with the Equinox. “I find the vehicle to be very fast,” Williams told Organic Connections. “The ride is virtually indistinguishable from a good crossover SUV. Acceleration and speed are not an issue whatsoever. If I’m in traffic or moving around, the car is very responsive. Because it’s electric, it’s very quiet; the only sound you really hear is the slight tick-tick as the hydrogen is converted.”