DOE Funding GM Pilot Program to Demonstrate Real-Life Applications of Fuel Cells for Fleet and Commercial Customers

March 8, 2024
Southern Company, GM, and Nel will also demonstrate an integrated hydrogen microgrid for fueling infrastructure, including a stationary fuel cell-based mobile power generator

GM is leading a pilot program, funded by the Department of Energy’s SuperTruck 3 program and the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office, to demonstrate the real-life applications of fuel cells for fleet and commercial customers.

The fuel cell-related project is a hydrogen-based worksite ecosystem arranged for GM’s fleet of medium-duty fuel cell trucks. The field evaluation fleet trucks, built on a similar frame to the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado 5500 MD, will be powered by HYDROTEC fuel cell systems.

The prototype trucks are expected to have a GM-estimated range greater than 300 miles and a 19,500-pound gross vehicle weight rating. They operate in a native 800V architecture and produce more than 300 kW peak power.  

Southern Company, a US-based utility company, will receive HYDROTEC fuel cell-powered medium-duty trucks for shop vehicles at its worksites. 

“These trucks and their accompanying hydrogen infrastructure can help enable a zero-emissions solution for heavy-duty and medium-duty truck customers looking to meet their clean energy goals as well as reduce their operational noise and carbon footprint,” said Charlie Freese, Executive Director of Global HYDROTEC. “GM’s advanced fuel cell technology gives these trucks a competitive edge against their diesel counterparts, with comparable towing and payload capabilities.”

GM's HYDROTEC fuel cells not only help fleet customers meet changing regulations in states like California but also achieve their own sustainability goals and potentially reduce fleet costs over time.

Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity through an electrochemical reaction; the fuel cell enables the conversion of energy stored in hydrogen into electricity to power a vehicle. 

Because regulations are quickly evolving in many countries, fuel cell-powered vehicles also have the added benefit of providing zero tailpipe emissions when compared to diesel vehicles. 

Southern Company, GM, and Nel, an electrolyzer company, will also demonstrate an integrated hydrogen microgrid for fueling infrastructure, including a stationary fuel cell-based mobile power generator. Nel will provide the project with its advanced PEM electrolyzers to help create green hydrogen onsite. 

This microgrid project, developed by Southern Company's electric subsidiary Georgia Power, is expected to be located at a Georgia power plant. 

Southern Company, GM, and Nel are planning to use their microgrid approach to create green hydrogen at off-peak hours and use it to power the site's operations when grid power is most expensive. This will enable a more affordable and low-emissions approach to improving the installation's economics and resiliency.

GM’s fuel cells will also provide power for a 350 kW fast charger for medium-duty battery electric vehicles and resilient power for the site. This is expected to help Southern Company support a sustainable infrastructure and transportation system for the future. 

Additionally, the U.S. Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center is providing additional funding to support the development of the fuel cell propulsion systems in these medium-duty trucks. 

The initial field evaluation fleet prototypes were built in Southeastern Michigan, with testing to be carried out at GM’s Milford Proving Ground.

About the Author

Breanna Sandridge, Senior Editor

Breanna Sandridge is senior editor for EnergyTech and Microgrid Knowledge, both part of the energy group at Endeavor Business Media.

Prior to that, Breanna was managing editor for Machinery Lubrication and Reliable Plant magazines, both part of Noria Corp. She has two years experience covering the industrial sector.

She also is a 2021 graduate of Northeastern State University (Oklahoma) with a Bachelor's in English.