Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2002   by CARS Magazine

GM mates Fuel Cell and Drive-By-Wire Technology

General Motors Corporation has introduced Hy-wire, the world's first drivable vehicle that combines a hydrogen fuel cell with by-wire technology. Incorporating many features from the AUTOnomy concept ...

General Motors Corporation has introduced Hy-wire, the world’s first drivable vehicle that combines a hydrogen fuel cell with by-wire technology. Incorporating many features from the AUTOnomy concept vehicle, Hy-wire will be introduced to the public at the Paris Motor Show Sept. 26.

Larry Burns, GM’s vice president of research and development and planning, said, “We are driving to have compelling and affordable fuel cell vehicles on the road by the end of the decade. With Hy-wire, we have taken the technology as it exists today and packaged it into an innovative drivable vehicle comparable in size and weight to today’s luxury automobiles.

“All of the touring sedan’s propulsion and control systems are contained within an 11-inch-thick skateboard-like chassis, maximizing the interior space for five occupants and their cargo. There is no engine to see over, no pedals to operate – merely a single unit called X-drive that is easily set to either a left or right driving position.”

“By combining fuel cell and by-wire technology, we’ve packaged this vehicle in a new way, opening up a new world of chassis architectures and customized bodies for individualized expression,” said Chris Borroni-Bird, director of GM’s Design and Technology Fusion Group and program director of the Hy-wire concept. “It is a significant step towards a new kind of automobile that is substantially more friendly to the environment and provides consumers positive benefits in driving dynamics, safety and freedom of individual expression.”

According to Wayne Cherry, GM’s vice president of design, the chassis architecture provides designers the freedom to create a number of different body styles. “Until now, fuel cells and by-wire have been demonstrated as if they were an end in themselves,” said Cherry. “But we look at this technology as enabling us to create a number of exciting new body styles for consumers to choose from. This is just the second interpretation of many to come.”

The X-drive, which allows steering, braking and other vehicle systems to be controlled electronically rather than mechanically, provides greater freedom for the driver. Drivers now have the option to brake and accelerate with either the right or left hand. The driver accelerates by gently twisting either the right or left handgrip, and brakes by squeezing the brake actuator also located on the handgrips. The handgrips glide up and down for steering, somewhat different than today’s vehicles where the steering wheel revolves around a steering column.

A single docking port provides the electrical connection between the all-aluminum chassis and the fiberglass body. Mechanically, there are 10 body attachment linkages.

The fuel cell stack, which produces a continuously available power of 94 kilowatts, is installed in the back of the chassis. Most of the chassis is 11-inches thick, tapering to 7 inches at the edges. The electrical motor drives the front wheels and is installed transversely between them. Three cylindrical storage tanks (5,000 psi or 350 bars) are located centrally in the chassis. Hy-wire weighs 1,900 kilograms (4,180 pounds) with 20-inch tires in front and 22-inch tires in the rear. GM has more than 30 patents in progress covering business models, technologies and manufacturing processes related to the concept.

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