GM-Chrysler Project Mixes Gasoline, Fuel Cells

Article excerpt

In an unusual partnership, Chrysler Corp. and General Motors Corp. took a giant step forward in bringing one of the most promising technologies to reduce emissions and increase fuel economy in cars and trucks closer to reality.

Chrysler and GM's giant parts division, Delphi Automotive Systems, will collaborate on a running prototype of a unique Chrysler-developed concept car, using fuel cells for power.

Chrysler initially unveiled at the 1997 North American International Auto Show in Detroit its concept car equipped with fuel cells to generate electricity. A fuel cell is a device that produces electricity directly from a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen triggered by a platinum catalyst. Fuel cells are stacked in series to produce enough electricity to power electric motors.

Many automakers are working on fuel-cell technology, but what sets Chrysler's approach apart is the fact that it uses simple gasoline - and potentially other readily available and inexpensive fuels - instead of a more difficult to acquire fuel, such as hydrogen. Chrysler engineers have devised a system that converts gasoline to hydrogen, carbon dioxide and water with a fuel processor in a multistage, chemical reaction. The processor is carried right on board the vehicle. The hydrogen it produces then is used to create electricity to power the vehicle. Chrysler engineers believe by using gasoline to produce hydrogen instead of storing hydrogen in tanks on board the vehicle, as most experimental fuel-cell cars do, a decade could be shaved off the introduction of fuel cells as a practical power source. "The infrastructure for gasoline already exists, and consumers would still fuel their cars in the same way as they do today. We wanted to make this as transparent to customers as possible," said Christopher E. Borroni-Bird, advanced technologies specialist at Chrysler.

The United States Council for Automotive Research, a consortium of the Big Three automakers in collaboration with federal government agencies, suppliers and academia, has been working with Arthur D. …