GM offers 3-month fuel cell test drive

BURBANK On the outside, the Chevy Equinox SUV doesn't necessarily look like anything special. But under the hood, there's no engine -- just a hydrogen fuel cell to power the car. No gasoline, no oil, and no pollution.

General Motors is putting them into the hands of the public this year for extended test drives. Everyday people who sign up get to drive them for free for three months. It's a way for GM to further test the vehicles in real-world driving.

The Walt Disney Company, the corporate parent of ABC7, has taken an interest, too. Disney will have 10 of them for the next couple of years.

"They'll be used for events that we have, they'll be used for celebrities, they'll be used for employees getting to and from meetings. They'll be used for a lot of different things -- anything that has to get you somewhere, this is the vehicle to use," said Disney spokeswoman Luanna Huber.

Disney employees from the CEO on down will take turns driving the high-tech vehicles to not only conduct business, but for their daily commutes.

Ben Lee works for Disney, but he signed up for the program before he even knew his employer was getting involved.

"All of our neighbors are very excited to see the car in the driveway, and my co-workers love it," said Lee. "I'm the designated driver for lunch."

Fueling stations are scarce right now, but there is one right in Burbank. Since this is all a pilot program, the fuel will be free to the test drivers.

A lot of people want to know how the vehicle runs on hydrogen. Technically, it doesn't run on hydrogen, it runs on electricity. What the fuel cell does is turn hydrogen into electricity through a chemical process. The beauty is the only byproduct is pure water.

As it drives, the vehicle stores reserve power in a high-voltage battery. GM's engineers say that the fuel cells have gotten smaller, more efficient, and less costly in recent years.

So the question a lot of people have right now is, "When will I be able to buy one?"

"It's the largest market test of its kind, and from our drivers using these vehicles, we're going to get back information so that we can make these cars you see on the road in a few years," said GM spokeswoman Diedra Wiley.

In the meantime, you can still sign up online to take a spin in one of these test vehicles, and possibly be part of automotive history.

Click here to apply for the Project Driveway test program.


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