GM's Outgoing R&D Chief Says Company's H2 Program Needs More Federal Aid
General Motors, a leader in development of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, may have to curtail its cutting-edge work unless it gets another $50 million to $70 million from the government, GM's outgoing research chief warns.
GM just emerged from a painful bankruptcy restructuring in which it cut 1,100 dealers; shed Pontiac, Hummer and Saturn; and lost thousands more jobs. Yet, through it all, GM maintained its hydrogen research program pretty much intact, even though fuel-cell vehicles are still years away from going on sale.
"The program has not slowed down at all," Larry Burns (pictured), GM's retiring vice president of research, said in an interview with USA Today. "The issue is, going forward, do we have sufficient money to operate at that rate?"
You may recall that Burns is one of the auto industry's most outspoken backers of hydrogen technology. He shepherded the Chevrolet Equinox fuel-cell electric vehicle into existence and has helped lead the charge for development of a national hydrogen fueling system to support widespread use of the zero-emissions vehicles.
Trying to seek federal research dollars, directly or indirectly, comes at a sensitive time for GM. As of last month, the automaker had either accepted or been approved for $49.4 billion in government bailout funds. It has not had direct grants from the government for its hydrogen program.
Now, General Motors is in talks with "government and private entities" about grants or partnerships in hydrogen vehicle research, confirms GM spokesman Alan Adler.
Under Burns, GM has become known for its fuel-cell work. "They have done so much original, groundbreaking work in this area," Catherine Dunwoody, executive director of the California Fuel Cell Partnership, told USA Today.
Burns, 58, says he decided to retire to give the new GM fresh research leadership under Alan Taub, 54, who, he says, will continue with the...