GM Reveals New Hy-Wire Fuel Cell Vehicle

August 14, 2002 by Jeff Shepard

General Motors Corp. (Detroit, MI) introduced its new Hy-wire fuel cell vehicle, which is based on a radical "skateboard" design. The new vehicle was first introduced as the Autonomy at the American International Auto Show in Detroit last January. The new vehicle has no engine, transmission, brake or gas peddles, and is the first vehicle that combines fuel cell technology with by-wire operation.

Everything is operated with a hand-held unit called an X-Drive, which can be moved from side to side like a video game system. Utilizing a system developed by SKF Group (Sweden), acceleration is performed by twisting a handle as a motorcycle rider would, and braking similarly is accomplished by squeezing a hand control. Steering is a matter of moving around an aircraft-like yoke. Interchangeable vehicle bodies can be "docked" to the skateboard-looking chassis. Engineers fit electronic components into the middle of an 11in chassis, tapering to 7in on either end. The vehicle design features four electric motors, one for each wheel, driven by hydrogen fuel cells.

"The fusion of fuel cells and x-by-wire technology, which replaces mechanical systems with electronic ones, opens the door to tremendous styling and design opportunities," said Wayne Cherry, GM vice president of design. "It's design freedom without constraints."