General Motors has demonstrated the world’s first driveable fuel cell vehicle that extracts
hydrogen from gasoline to produce electricity. The Chevrolet S-10 fuel cell pickup
demonstrator is equipped with a fuel processor that reforms low-sulfur gasoline onboard by
a series of chemical reactions. The fuel is mixed with air and water, and then passed over
a series of catalysts that break apart — or “crack” — the hydrogen from the carbon.
resulting stream of hydrogen is sent to the fuel cell stack, where it is combined with
oxygen from the air to produce electricity. GM claims that when linked with a fuel cell
stack, the reformer technology in the vehicle could achieve up to 40 percent overall energy
efficiency, which is a 50 percent improvement over a conventional internal-combustion
engine. With a reformer fuel cell, the S-10 pickup could approach 40 mpg, says GM.
Carbon-dioxide emissions would be cut by up to 50 percent if the gasoline was reformed
onboard, and greatly reduced if the reformer were placed at the gas station. All regulated
emissions would be nearly eliminated, except for trace amounts of carbon monoxide and
hydrocarbons. There are no oxides of nitrogen. During the next year, GM engineers will put
the vehicle through rigorous testing to more clearly determine such things as range,
efficiency, emissions and fuel-reforming characteristics.