GM Unveils New AUTOnomy Fuel Cell Vehicle

March 20, 2002 by Jeff Shepard

General Motors Corp. (GM, Detroit, MI) unveiled its new AUTOnomy fuel cell vehicle, the first vehicle designed around a fuel cell propulsion system and the first to combine fuel cells with x-by-wire technology, which allows steering, braking and other vehicle systems to be controlled electronically rather than mechanically, according to GM.

The propulsion and control systems are contained within a 6in thick skateboard-like chassis, freeing the vehicle body from traditional design requirements. The AUTOnomy’s essential systems, including the fuel cell stack and on-board hydrogen storage system, are packaged in the skateboard-like chassis. The unit is intended to last for years, much longer than a conventional vehicle. Additionally, the chassis simplifies manufacturing and service, and enables a wide variety of vehicles to be built on a small number of platforms with much shorter product development cycles.

The nerve center of AUTOnomy’s electrical system is a universal "docking port," or connection, at the center of the skateboard chassis. The docking port creates a quick and foolproof way to connect all of the body systems – controls, power and heating – to the rolling chassis. That makes the vehicle body lightweight and uncomplicated. The car features a 42V electrical system, x-by-wire controls, and is configured to run any number of devices in the passenger compartment.

Rick Wagoner, president and CEO of General Motors, stated “We started with the premise, ‘What if we were inventing the automobile today rather than a century ago? What might we do differently?’ AUTOnomy is more than just a new concept car; it's potentially the start of a revolution in how automobiles are designed, built and used.”