You’ve read here recently about how Hyundai has been laboring away at its plan to build over-the-road highway trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells, a technology that, along with autonomous driving, promises to upend the interstate cargo industry as fuel technological advances in the past ever have. This might be a good juncture to lay out exactly what a fuel cell is, and does. If you look at a heavy truck today, you’ll see fuel tanks, usually on either side underneath the cab, mounted to the frame rails. The hydrogen fuel cell – in industry parlance, it’s now called a cube – can be packaged aboard a big rig just as easily, in the same spot, lined up in twos or threes, linked to the truck’s onboard battery pack.
General Motors has converted a former assembly plant in Pontiac, Michigan, over to fuel cell research and the development of manufacturing processes, now calling the facility the GM Global Propulsion Systems Pontiac Engineering Center. GM refers to its fuel cells under the trade name Hydrotec, and this week announced a deal with Navistar Corporation, the successor to International Harvester, under which GM will supply the truck manufacturer with Hydrotec cubes, each containing about 300 individual fuel cells, for Navistar’s forthcoming International RH Series of fuel cell electric trucks. Navistar and GM already have a collaborative agreement developing and building Navistar’s CV series of medium-duty hydrocarbon-fueled trucks, which replaced the foregoing Chevrolet Kodiak.