A prototype of a GM hydrogen car in 2007. (Photo : Wikimedia Commons )
General Motors announced Friday that they are planning to close their hydrogen fuel-cell research plant in Rochester, N.Y. The plant will be relocated to Michigan to be based closer to the company's headquarters.
The move will be a quick and easy one, as the company expects it to be completed by the middle of 2013.
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Over 220 workers won't lose their job necessarily, since they will be offered the opportunity to work at the new global plant in Detroit instead. Not all workers will be able to make this transition however, and many were blindsided by the unexpected news.
A spokesperson with GM said that besides being located closer to its headquarters, GM is hoping to capitalize on "synergies" with the rest of the vehicle and powertrain companies.
Fuel cells change a fuel into electricity which will then be used to power cars and trunks. This is only a minor factor in GM's goal to find different solutions for gas-fueled engines.
"I believe fuel cell vehicles could be commercialized by 2015 or 2016 if the infrastructure to support the technology is sufficient, and the technology could be cost competitive by 2022," said Charlie Freese, the executive in charge of GM's fuel cell programs. "Some companies are trying to beat that timeline, said Freese, who added GM has not announced any programs.
He also believes that the auto industry needs to eliminate some of the costs in the fuel cell, which include reducing the use of high-cost precious metal platinum.
He doesn't foresee the first generation of vehicles being very profitable, but once they are able to make the vehicle at an affordable price, he feels most families in around the world will want to at least consider the car.
The lease expires at the NY plant early next year.