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GM to Sell Fuel Cell Systems to Dow Chemical

May 08, 2003|John O'Dell | Times Staff Writer

General Motors Corp. said Wednesday that it will sell 35 large stationary fuel cell systems to Dow Chemical Corp. over the next seven years in what it says is the largest sale yet of systems capable of producing electricity from hydrogen without harmful emissions.

Tim Vail, director of distributed generation for General Motors' fuel cell unit, valued the contract at $50 million and said both companies expect it to be the first of a string of fuel cell purchases.

The fuel cells will be tested at a Dow Chemical plant in Texas, and the company will use the power to offset its massive energy bills at the manufacturing site. Each of the 35 systems will produce enough electricity to power 750 average homes, GM said.

GM has spent billions on fuel cell research and has vowed to become the first automaker to profitably market fuel cell-powered passenger vehicles. GM expects commercial sales of various fuel cells to help speed the development and cut the ultimate cost of automotive fuel cells.

Fuel cells produce electricity in an electrochemical process that involves combining hydrogen and oxygen and passing the mixture over a catalyst.

Separately, GM will announce today that it will begin installing fuel-efficiency systems next year on three large sport utility vehicles: the 2005 GMC Envoy XL, Envoy XUV and Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT.

The fuel-saving technology will be a feature on the vehicles when equipped with an optional 5.3-liter V-8 engine and is expected to improve fuel economy by about 8%.

The new system works by shutting down half of an engine's cylinders during most normal driving conditions, although the cylinders are reactivated when needed for acceleration or for hauling heavy loads.

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