General Motors announced an agreement with Autocar Industries LLC to jointly develop service vehicles with “zero tailpipe emissions,” to be powered by GM’s Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system. The Hydrotec “power cubes” store hydrogen in a series of fuel cells that are used to generate an electrical current to power a motor (or multiple motors.) The automaker describes the system as compact and flexible, with each Hydrotec power cube containing over 300 hydrogen-fuel cells, plus thermal- and power-management systems.
The Hydrotec fuel cell power cubes will be produced by GM in Brownstown, Mich.
The fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity through an electrochemical reaction, converting energy stored in the hydrogen into electricity. Each power cube contains more than 300 hydrogen fuel cells, along with thermal and power management systems and proprietary controls to fuel cell and battery life and performance.
“We want to enable zero tailpipe emissions solutions for the largest, highest energy-consuming vehicles, and fuel cells are ideal for the most energy intensive applications,” explained GM’s Charlie Freese, executive director, Global Hydrotec.
Autocar is a specialty manufacturer of “severe duty” Class 7 and 8 trucks used for aircraft and military support (e.g., tankers), concrete mixer, dump trucks, refuse trucks, road-maintenance trucks, and terminal tractors.
“EV propulsion systems like GM’s Ultium platform are great solutions for electrifying passenger vehicles, but larger vehicles like Autocar’s Class 8 trucks, refuse trucks, and terminal tractors require robust solutions that enable significant energy carrying capacity and fast refueling times,” Freese said.
The first trucks to be developed are forecast to enter production in 2026 at the Autocar Truck Plant, Birmingham, Ala., starting with cement mixers, roll-off and dump trucks, which all share a common architecture. Refuse trucks and terminal tractors will follow. Sales will be made directly to the buyers.
“Autocar provides customized vocational trucking solutions, and as regulations change, we see Hydrotec fuel cells as an additional avenue for our customers to meet their EPA requirements with zero tailpipe emissions vehicles,” stated president Eric Schwartz. “GM’s scale, reliability and the capability of their Hydrotec fuel cell technology will enhance Autocar’s existing platforms.”