Chicago Technology Festival Showcases GM’s HydroGen3

Published August 1, 2005

General Motors gave students, faculty, and media an opportunity to drive its HydroGen3 hydrogen fuel cell automobile at a June 21 technological fair held at Chicago’s Northwestern University.

GM’s vice president of research and development and strategic planning, Larry Burns, attended the fair to discuss the future of hydrogen fuel propulsion technology.

Exceeded Driver’s Expectations

Fuel cell advocate John Liskey drove the HydroGen3 and reported General Motors had exceeded his expectations regarding performance and design.

“The GM engineers tell me they may never have to add any coolant to the HydroGen3 because it doesn’t get as hot as in an internal combustion engine,” reported Liskey. “While I was talking, the first carload of test drivers drove away and I didn’t even notice the car had started moving until it was perhaps 30 feet away. It’s that quiet unless you are right next to it.

“There is a slight hesitation when accelerating from a stop, but once the power is available there seems to be plenty of low-end torque available,” Liskey added. “I did give it some stabs of the throttle and the response seemed more than satisfactory. I had no trouble keeping up with traffic, which was plentiful along Sheridan Road.”

Seemed Like Other Cars

Reporting on his overall impressions of the car, it was the HydroGen3’s conventionality that most impressed Liskey.

“The HydroGen3 isn’t perfect, but it’s close and exceeded my expectations,” Liskey observed. “When I first started following fuel cell development, the cars were bulging with no passenger room, and test drive malfunctions seemed more common. To my knowledge, there were no problems on this day.

“I found myself with mixed feelings,” Liskey summarized. “On one hand, I was excited about what I’d just experienced. On the other hand, I almost felt some disappointment that the HydroGen3 didn’t feel all that different from my car. I’ll call it the ‘big whoop’ factor.

“But therein lies the secret. GM has worked hard to make driving their fuel cell vehicles no different an experience than the cars they sell today. Consumers expect that. On that front, my pseudo disappointment is a sign of GM’s progress with this program.”

— James M. Taylor