General Motors Corp. and the US Department of Energy (DOE) have signed a five-year, $US88 million agreement to build a 40-vehicle fuel cell fleet and further develop the technology.

Under the programme, GM will spend $44 million to deploy fuel cell vehicle demonstration fleets in Washington DC, New York , California and Michigan. The DOE will contribute the other half, under an agreement that expires in September 2009.

In a separate commercial agreement, Shell Hydrogen LLC will support GM by setting up five refuelling stations in Washington, DC., metropolitan New York City and between Washington DC and New York, or the "East Coast Corridor," and in California.

Other program partners include the US Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia and Quantum Technologies in Lake Forest, California - providing facilities for GM to store and maintain fuel cell vehicles; NextEnergy in Detroit, Mich. for codes and standards development; and Viewpoint Systems in Rochester, New York for collecting and retrieving data remotely.

GM is also collaborating with the US Department of Defence and will announce more details later this week.