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GM wants China to help promote new car
( 2003-11-19 10:58) (Agencies)

General Motors Corp. is trying to enlist the Chinese government in promoting cars that run on hydrogen fuel cells instead of gasoline, in hopes the nation's potentially huge market might generate enough sales to make the new technology profitable.

General Motors revolutionary Hy-wire car speeds down the road during a test drive session at a racing circuit on the outskirts of Beijing November 18, 2004. The car features hydrogen fuel cell propulsion and other technology that GM hopes will represent the future of the automobile. Detroit's 'Big Three' auto makers said that they will export thousands of vehicles to China over the next two years. [Reuters]
The experimental cars run on electric motors fueled by hydrogen and could reduce dependence on oil and help the environment. The cars have no gas pedals, are accelerated via the steering wheel and emit only water droplets and vapor from the exhaust pipe.

GM hopes its hydrogen-fuel cell cars will be commercially viable by 2010, and it wants to be the first company to sell 1 million of the cars for profit.

Mainland Chinese have only just starting buying regular gas-powered cars in large numbers, and China's oil imports are already surging, said Phil Murtaugh, GM China's chairman and chief executive.

As such, China could jump straight into alternative-fuel cars if it begins setting up special hydrogen filling stations now perhaps alongside new gas stations as they are built, Murtaugh and other visiting GM executives said Tuesday.

"In the next few days, we'll be talking to Chinese officials ... to understand what is the approach here," said Byron McCormick, executive director for GM fuel-cell activities.

China is already developing fuel-cell vehicles, electric vehicles and hybrids that run on a combination of fuels, Murtaugh said. "They understand that we would like to be part of that and we're capable of being part of it."

The initial cost of setting up hydrogen filling stations in China would be between $6 billion and $19 billion, said Hongwei Wang, new business development manager for Shell China, adding that his company has made no investment in promoting the new technology in China.

McCormick said shifting China into hydrogen-cell cars would require a three-way partnership between GM, the government and an energy company such as Shell. The GM executives are to meet Thursday with Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan among others.

McCormick said China only became a net importer of oil in 1996. But imports now supply 30 percent of the nation's needs, and that proportion will rise to 50 percent by 2010, he said.

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