General Motors has set a series of new records with the Zafira-based HydroGen1 fuel cell concept car. HydroGen1 set 15 international records during four weeks of endurance testing at the GM Desert Proving Ground at Mesa near Phoenix.

The records include 625 miles (1000 km) covered in around 11 hours 30 minutes at an average speed of 54.9 mph. They were set by the driving team of engineers from the Global Alternative Propulsion Centre.

HydroGen1 also covered 62.5 miles (100 km) at an average speed of over 62.5 mph and completed a 24-hour endurance test, stopping only for service and refuelling.

The HydroGen1 fuel cell concept car

"We wanted to push all the car's systems to their limits in the heat of Arizona," said Bernd Zerbe, the Opel engineer in charge of the tests on the Arizona proving ground. The record attempts were supervised by officials from FIA/USAC (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile/United States Automobile Club).

Dr Erhard Schubert, co-director of propulsion centre, which is operated by Vauxhall/Opel and General Motors at three research and development facilities in Germany and the United States, is pleased with the results.

"The records are an important step towards market readiness of the fuel cell vehicle and demonstrate the advanced status the new technology has already reached. We have also gained important knowledge of what must be improved to offer future buyers of fuel cell vehicles the technology that ensures top performance under the toughest conditions."

The concept car is powered by a block of 200 fuel cells connected in series. The environmentally compatible powerplant is an in-house GAPC development delivering up to 80 kW/109PS constant load or 120 kW/163PS peak load. Hydrogen and oxygen react electrochemically within the unit to form water at a temperature of 80 degrees C, and in doing so - depending upon load conditions - generate between 125 and 200 volts of electrical energy. The direct current generated in this manner is converted by an electronic control element into alternating current (250 - 380 volt) and fed to a 55 kW (75 PS) three-phase synchronous motor, which drives the front wheels of HydroGen1.

The hydrogen fuel on board the Zafira concept car is stored in liquid form at a temperature of minus 253 degrees C in a so-called 'Cryo tank'. Up to 75 litres or five kilograms of hydrogen can be stored in this tank, which is almost one metre long and has a diameter of 400 millimetres. With this capacity, the tank, located under the rear seat in front of the rear axle, provides an impressive operating range of 250 miles. The exhaust system emits nothing but steam.

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