General Motors is working on a radical plan to use portable hydrogen-powered generators to charge electric vehicles in remote areas.

By Trent Nikolic

US car giant General Motors is considering a radical plan to develop portable hydrogen generators to charge electric cars in remote areas.

It’s another technology option being considered as the world’s auto makers grapple with how low-emissions and zero-emissions cars could be used in remote areas.

Most electric cars on sale today have a driving range of between 200km and 400km, which is less than most petrol or diesel vehicles.

While hydrogen-powered vehicles are also in development – experimental fleets of Toyota Mirai (pictured below) and Hyundai Nexo hydrogen cars are already on Australian roads – they are reliant on limited refuelling points. 

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And hydrogen cars are currently more costly to develop and manufacture than electric vehicles.

A new General Motors proposal would use hydrogen to power portable power stations or generators which would, in turn, create electricity to charge electric cars.

Drive was recently able to take a first-hand look at General Motors’ emission-free hydrogen generator at its proving ground in Milford, Michigan – and watch as it fast-charged a Hummer EV. 

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The portable unit uses General Motors’ Hydrotec hydrogen technology. 

While the proposal might sound exotic now, the concept could provide a solution for electric-car use in remote regions of countries like Australia.

The idea of an electric-car travelling as far as Cape York or across the Simpson Desert may seem far fetched today. 

However, the concept of a portable hydrogen generator opens up the prospect of delivering a portable power source to where it is needed.

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General Motors says it is working with a company called Renewable Innovations to build the tooling that would bring Hydrotec technology to portable power generators.

Unlike noisy petrol and diesel-powered generators, General Motors says its hydrogen-powered electricity generator is almost silent – and emissions-free, beyond water vapour.

General Motors says its mobile power generator – and accompanying rapid charging system – provides charge for up to 100 electric vehicles without refilling or tapping into a local electrical grid. 

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For now, the portable system is not yet cost-effective to manufacture or distribute, but General Motors says the research is ongoing.

If the project is successful, it means remote businesses – and energy providers – could avoid costly upgrades to local power networks to accomodate an increase in electric-car use.

When paired with an Empower rapid charger, the hydrogen fuel cell generator fits on a large box trailer, to be towed to remote areas.

Charles Freese, General Motors’ executive director of its global fuel cell division, said the mobile generator “provides the ability to add an (electric vehicle) fast charger without the need to connect to the grid or break ground to install fixed charging stations.”