General Motors Co. in Detroit is offering new commercial applications of its HYDROTEC fuel cell technology currently in development — from heavy-duty trucks to aerospace to locomotives — for use beyond vehicles for power generation.
GM is planning multiple HYDROTEC-based power generators powered by the automaker’s Generation 2 HYDROTEC fuel cell power cubes, including:
- A Mobile Power Generator (MPG) to provide fast-charge capability for EVs 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.
The fuel cell generators ultimately could replace gas- and diesel-burning generators with fewer emissions at worksites, buildings, movie sets, data centers, outdoor concerts, and festivals. They also could back up or temporarily replace grid-sourced electricity for residential and small commercial enterprises at times of power disruption.
Each of the HYDROTEC-based power generators feature zero-emissions electric power generation output ranging from 60 kilowatts to 600 kilowatts, along with low noise and heat signatures.
“Our vision of an all-electric future is broader than just passenger vehicles or even transportation,” says Charlie Freese, executive director of the global HYDROTEC business at GM. “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.”
For example, GM is supplying HYDROTEC fuel cell power cubes to Renewable Innovations of Lindon, Utah, to build the Mobile Power Generator (MPG). 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 Corp. and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Ground Vehicle Systems Center. This version of the MPG is expected 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,” says Robert Mount, co-founder and CEO of Renewable Innovations. “We’ve seen that there’s a need for EV charging in places where there’s no charging equipment, and now we’re committed to bringing the best technology and game-changing applications to market with GM to accelerate the company’s vision of a zero-emissions future.”
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, an 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 nonrecoverable 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 rapid charger, powered by eight GM HYDROTEC power cubes, 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 can potentially be charged by the EMPOWER rapid charger 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 also is designing a separate, palletized version of the MPG and in partnership with GM Defense, will offer this and EV solutions to defense and other customers, such as the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC) in Warren, which is currently evaluating the technology.
GVSC is also exploring how this version of the MPG can power heavy-duty military equipment and camps. The 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.
Powered by a HYDROTEC power cube, the MPG prototype converts offboard, bulk-stored hydrogen to electricity generated with no emissions in operation. It generates less noise than a conventional diesel engine at full load and emits water which can be captured and repurposed in the field.
GM will produce HYDROTEC fuel cell systems using globally sourced parts at its Fuel Cell Systems Manufacturing joint venture with Honda in Brownstown Township. 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.
For more information about Renewable Innovations, visit here.