General Motors set a number of international records for vehicles powered by fuel cells in a 24-hour endurance run completed Tuesday night at the company's desert proving grounds, exposing the vehicle to record heat in the process.

Using a modified Opel-built Zafira, a minivan GM sells in Europe and other international markets, test engineers and journalists covered 862 miles, averaging 36 miles per hour.


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The vehicle, dubbed the "HydroGen1," is the first fuel cell vehicle to cover more than 500 miles in one day and to be driven in 100 degree Fahrenheit heat, according to test engineers.

"The vehicle held up tremendously well, especially considering the 100-degree heat," said lead researcher Udo Winter. "I think a pollution-free, fuel cell powered vehicle will be commercially viable within a decade.

"This is exciting for us because it's very similar to what test engineers and auto enthusiasts were doing in the early 1900s - racing cars powered by steam, gas and electricity to see which vehicles were the fastest and most durable.

The gas engine won out but, after 100 years, there is a new technology that will challenge the internal combustion engine. We are in the very early days of finding out what fuel cell vehicles can do."

Fuel cell vehicles create electricity from hydrogen and oxygen, produce no emissions except for water vapor, double the fuel economy and can cover more than 250 miles on one tank of fuel. "I can imagine the day when a sport utility vehicle will get 50 miles per gallon and cover 600 miles on a single tank of gas," added Winter.

GM engineers are conducting approximately 150 tests at 13 sites on five continents in the development of the HydroGen1. Some tests are so extreme that each mile covered represents 75 miles of normal, everyday driving.


To view related research reports, please follow the links below:-

Fuel Cells to 2004

Global Car Forecasts to 2005