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May 13, 2022
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GM bets on fuel-cell as battery shortcomings hamper clean energy transition

GM expands fuel-cell business beyond auto to fulfil clean energy demand

Once an emblematic carmaker, the Detroit-based group has announced plans to broaden fuel-cell tech development as energy transition gains momentum. Scaling up its hydrogen division could unlock much needed fresh revenue streams to reverse a downturn trend.

With the electric vehicle (EV) market being completely overcrowded in the present, and having consistently underperformed over the years in it, investing in fuel-cell technology could help the historic automaker keep being relevant in the long term.

Plans to expand its fuel-cell business are expected to materialise firstly with the production of mobile power generators, catering to the needs of industries that lack permanent power installation but demand clean energy. These could serve as EV fast-charging (FC) stations, as well as help prevent blackouts in a present time when energy supply can’t be taken for granted.

Although its fuel-cell division, Hydrotec, has already engaged in partnerships with industrial groups across sectors to provide clean energy solutions, the more ambitious strategy hinted by GM may lead to breakthrough developments in hydrogen-fuel tech.

This far-reaching expansion and increasing investment in fuel-cell R&D, by one of the largest automotive companies in the world, could represent the final push for this technology to have a prominent role in achieving the net-zero target.

Fuel-cell tech development may future-proof the century-old automaker

Evolving hydrogen-fuelled technology will bring both new business to the conglomerate as well as further developing business that it already has. Its enterprises focused on smart mobility and autonomous vehicles would benefit from the fuel-cell technology enhancement.

Additionally, GM has already partnered with key players in the aircraft, rail freight and road freight industries. While EVs keep looking more and more like a viable alternative to phase out gasoline passenger transportation, FCEVs could replace diesel-fuelled commercial vehicles.

Net-zero targets only achievable if clean energy is implemented across sectors

Clean energy transport has been in the spotlight, but zero-emission solutions for other highly polluting sectors have been deeply neglected in comparison. Especially in industrial settings, with the infrastructure needed to transport and store hydrogen already in place, it feels like a missed opportunity having to rely on fossil fuel energy rather than fuel-cell.

However, there are still some relevant environmental and logistic challenges to overcome for fuel-cell technology to play a relevant part in the economy decarbonisation process. Infrastructure to storage and transport needs to be further developed to satisfy the increasing demand for clean energy. Also, it would be paramount for the future implementation of fuel-cells, as one of the main clean energy alternatives, to evolve the hydrogen production process so it doesn’t rely on fossil fuel for the electrolysis of water.

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