Compared with a gas Equinox we tested a while back (a 3.4-liter V-6 with 185 horses and 210 pound-feet of twist), the FCV is 0.3 second slower to 60 (four percent), stops two feet shorter from 60 (one percent), and corners with 0.05g less lateral tug (seven percent). Basically, the fuel-cell car is the gas version on a bad day, respectable given it's being saddled with a trio of 10,000psi H2 tanks in the back (holding the equivalent of 4.2 gallons of gasoline for a 160-mile range) and enough radiators to cool Three Mile Island (needed to rid its lower-temp heat). It's a technical tour de force that should rightly make GM proud. One evening, I happened to park the Equinox next to a sweet mid-1960s Corvette surrounded by a group of Vette-smitten car guys reliving their Beach Boys youth. GM brawn, circa 1967, meets GM brain, circa 2008. Gradually, they took notice of the Equinox and eventually stared, bewildered, as it did its post-drive, water-vapor blown-down routine (whereby the fuel cell avoids freeze damage to temperatures as low as -15 F). Dumbstruck, they were.
So what's the situation? For decades, the story on hydrogen-fuel-cell cars has typically leveraged the old chicken-and-egg allusion. Something has to happen first-the fuel-cell car? Or will it be the hydrogen infrastructure? Up until now, the answer has been predictably, maybe conveniently, neither.
But now with the Equinox FCV, we don't just have a chicken, we have ourselves a prancing, chest-puffing, cock-a-doodle-dooing rooster. GM has taken the long list of fuel-cell never-will-happens and ripped up the piece of paper. It drives great; the range is tolerable; refueling time is acceptable (at competent stations); the thing didn't blow up. It's kinda fun. Joe Romm (author of the influential book "The Hype About Hydrogen") may need to rewrite a few of his tome's more doom-and-gloom chapters. However, from our experience, nearly everybody involved in the egg part of this undertaking-that is, the establishment of the hydrogen infrastructure-appears to have has so far laid a colossal double-yolker.
We hear it all the time: So if both diesel engines and hybrid gasoline engines offer efficiency improvements, why not combine them? Recently, we had the opportunity to drive and test just such a combination built by students from Mississippi State University, winner of the now completed Challenge X competition. Their car is basically a push-me/pull-you affair: Driving the front wheels is a GM-Europe-derived 1.9-liter, 148-horse turbodiesel coupled to a six-speed manual transmission, while the rears are rotated by a 60-horse electric motor. Sounds odd, but the integration works well. Is it a better alternative than Chevy's fuel-cell approach? MSU's car can manage a combined 35 miles per diesel gallon compared with the FCV's 38 gas-equivalent mileage (and potentially zero CO2 footprint). On the other hand, diesel is amply available right now-something you can't exactly say for hydrogen. For more, go to motortrend.com.