GM’s chief sustainability officer, Dane Parker, appeared at the Goldman Sachs Global Automotive Conference last week, where he said the automaker is currently exploring outside uses for its
Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell and Ultium battery technology.
The automaker is looking at using fuel cells and vehicle batteries for providing energy storage solutions for the military and consumers, Parker said. Some industrial equipment like forklifts are already powered by hydrogen fuel cells, Parker also pointed out, potentially giving it another industry to break into.
The automaker is also looking at all-new ways to use its Hydrogen fuel cell technology. For example, Parker said GM expects fuel cells to one day be used to charge EVs that have died while out on the road. Battery-powered vehicles usually need to be towed away on a flatbed if they die, but a mobile charging service using fuel cells could give EV drivers an alternative solution if their car, truck, crossover or SUV dies.
GM is eager to find new applications for its Hydrotec fuel cells and Ultium batteries so it can achieve economies of scale with the technology, which is pricy to develop and right now has a limited range of uses. Tesla has implemented a similar strategy, introducing the consumer-focused Tesla Powerwall home energy storage solution, which uses the same lithium-ion batteries as vehicles like the Model S sedan.
In addition to exploring outside industries to apply the EV and hydrogen technology to, the automaker is also shopping it around to other auto industry partners to help achieve economies of scale. Honda will use GM’s Ultium batteries and Ultium Drive motors in some of its future battery-electric products, while Nikola has agreed to use its hydrogen fuel cells in its upcoming line of Class 7 and Class 8 semi-trucks.
GM has always been mindful of the costs associated with developing emerging vehicle propulsion technology like hydrogen fuel cells. The automaker developed its Hydrotec technology in partnership with Honda in order to spread the cost of the tech between the two companies. It developed its modular Ultium Drive motors and Ultium modular batter system on its own, although the cells for the batteries will be manufactured by Ultium Cells LLC, a joint venture the automaker set up with South Korean battery supplier LG Chem, which also offers some savings over buying the cells directly from a third-part manufacturer.