The next stage in General Motors Corp.'s fuel-cell experiment will come in a fiberglass package.
The automaker released photos Aug. 14 of its Hy-wire concept car, a fuel-cell-powered, electronically controlled, driveable version of its Autonomy concept that debuted in January.
The public will get its first glimpse of the Hy-wire on Sept. 26 at the Paris Motor Show.
``With Autonomy, GM shared a vision,'' GM President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner said in a news release. ``Hy-wire accelerates our progress with a functional proof of concept, which strengthens our confidence in our ability to gain marketplace acceptance of production fuel-cell vehicles.''
The Hy-wire is packaged in a fiberglass body mounted on an 11-inch-thick aluminum chassis containing fuel cells and electric engines. That chassis comes in at nearly double the Autonomy's thickness, but that vehicle does not actually operate, with just a skeleton and shell of a design.
The Hy-wire will use a hydrogen-powered fuel-cell package that already has powered other GM cars up to 97 mph. It has has a maximum range of 60 miles.
Like the Autonomy that was its inspiration, the new concept also operates via a single docking port that allows the electronic controls to interact with the motors through a series of fiber-optic wires, permitting future concepts to operate off the same chassis, but with a new body style.
In shedding the standard operating system, the Hy-wire also eliminates the typical interior.
There is no steering-wheel column, no instrument panel and no pedals. With a single X-Drive control unit, the driver twists a handgrip to accelerate, squeezes a brake actuator on the handgrip to slow down and steers by gliding the X-Drive up or down.
``The design is built around the fact that there is no engine compartment,'' said Ed Welburn, who is executive director of GM design for body-on-frame architectures. ``The vehicle is very open from front to rear. This is intentional to highlight the openness in the interior and the range of possibilities.''
Detroit-based GM worked with designers from Stile Bertone of Turin, Italy, to create the concept vehicle and Sweden's SKF Group to provide the electronic drive-by-wire operating system.
A commercial version of the Hy-wire probably will not appear before the end of this decade, but GM has pledged itself to becoming a major manufacturer of fuel-cell vehicles by 2020.