General Motors has called on the energy industry and government to build more hydrogen fuel stations, to help make fuel cell vehicles a reality.

The message was delivered by Larry Burns, GM's head of research and development, and strategic planning, during a keynote address at the National Hydrogen Association annual conference in California.

Burns was very upbeat about the potential for what he termed hydrogen fuel cell-electric vehicles. He said that the automotive industry is investing heavily in developing fuel cell technology and want to bring large numbers of fuel cell vehicles to market, but he stressed that parallel investment by the energy industry and governments is urgently required.

Burns said that a joint study by GM and Shell Hydrogen found it would cost around US$12bn to provide 70% of the US population with access to a hydrogen station.

"It's no longer a question of 'can it be done?' or 'should it be done?'" said Burns. "We not only should do it. We must do it. It's now a question of collective will. Do we have the collective resolve to work together to solve the challenges we face, rather than handing them off to future generations?"

Burns said addressing the infrastructure challenge is essential because the potential benefits of hydrogen fuel cell technology are clear and compelling

"This technology promises to deliver family-sized vehicles that are fun to drive, safe, look great, refuel fast, go far between fill-ups, and are emissions-free and petroleum-free. It also holds promise to do all of this while keeping automobiles affordable to own and operate. And just like electricity, it can be made from a broad range of renewable and sustainable energy pathways. No other technology offers this exciting potential," he said.

"We have not discovered anything yet to suggest mass volume cannot ultimately be attained."

He also complimented hydrogen fueling initiatives by FreedomCAR, Shell Hydrogen and Chevron Hydrogen, the California Fuel Cell Partnership, and the California Hydrogen Highway, but called for efforts like these to accelerate.

"What is urgently needed is sufficient investment by energy providers to assure auto companies that the required hydrogen infrastructure will be in place when we deploy our next generation of fuel cell-electric vehicles," he said.

"Clearly, the automobile industry has stepped forward with fuel cell-electric vehicles, and we are doing everything possible to aggressively develop this critically important technology," Burns said. "However, we have reached a stage where we cannot continue to make significant progress on our own. Our customers must have safe and convenient access to affordable hydrogen. This means the energy industry and governments must join the auto industry in our journey to produce and sell fuel cell-electric vehicles in volume numbers."