Local News

What A Concept! GM's AUTOnomy Has No Engine, Runs On Hydrogen

Posted January 9, 2002

— Imagine a car that has no engine and runs on hydrogen. Now imagine having a sedan, convertible or SUV body for it. That is what General Motors'

AUTOnomy

offers.

AUTOnomy is just a concept right now. General Motors developed a skateboard-like chassis onto which many body types can be dropped.

Less than a foot thick, the chassis houses a hydrogen-powered fuel cell that powers electric motors in all four wheels.

How Stuff Works'

chief Marshall Brain explained that a

fuel cell

is a way to turn hydrogen and air directly into electricity.

"It does it by taking hydrogen and splitting it into its electrons and protons. Electrons flow to create the electricity coming out of the fuel cell and then the protons and electrons meet up with hydrogen and turn into water," Brain said.

AUTOnomy is a "drive-by-wire" car. There are no pedals. The driver just squeezes the handgrips to accelerate or slow down.

The driver's seating position can also be changed because the X-drive unit just plugs in and swings about.

GM hopes to have a working version of AUTOnomy by the end of the year. The vehicle is said to be very efficient, but you cannot just drive up to a hydrogen station, and the process of making hydrogen cuts down on efficiency.

"There are ways to produce hydrogen, but you have to get it from somewhere and you have to split it from something and that always ends up taking energy," Brain said.

It is a wild concept that GM says could reinvent the automobile from the ground up. There is a chance the AUTOnomy could be on the road by the end of the decade.

According to GM, AUTOnomy could be built as a car, truck or bus. If extra power is needed, the hydrogen fuel cell is simply enlarged.

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