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GM Moves Important Research Center To Michigan

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jeffgilbert Jeff Gilbert
Automotive reporter for WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBS Radio News....
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DETROIT — (WWJ) Researchers, who have been working on some of General Motors most important long term technologies are being moved closer to home.

“General Motors notified employees today that we do plan to consolodate our fuel cell activities, that were taking place in Honeoye Falls, New York to our Global Powertrain Engineerning Headquarters in Pontiac,” said GM spokeswoman Kim Carpenter.

A lot has changed since those operations were set up in Honeoye Falls, just outside of Rochester, in the 90’s. That area was chosen because it was close to research and development of fuel cells, which create electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen. At that time, fuel cells were large, expensive and not very reliable. More than a dozen years of research has created many prototype vehicles, with electric motors, powered by fuel cells.

It make sense, Carpenter says, to move research on this technology closer to other work being done on electric vehicles, and other alternative technologies.

“We think we’ll really be able to capitalize on the technical expertise of not only the fuel cell team, but our other engineering and research groups.”

GM will offer transfers to the 220 employees now working in New York.

Fuel cell powered vehicles were embraced by the Bush Administration as a long term alternative to gasoline powered vehicles. They’ve recieved less attention in recent years, as the Obama Administration placed its emphasis on electric vehicles. But, car companies have continued research on fuel cells. In fact, Toyota has promised to have a fuel cell powered vehicle on the road for the 2015 model year.

The cost of fuel cell technology has fallen in recent years, and recent advances have made fuel cells more reliable. But there remains the issue of a hydrogen infrastructure for refueling fuel cell powere vehicles.

GM’s fuel cell team has been working on these issues in New York. They will continue to seek savings and breakthroughs at their new operations in Pontiac.

“We think this decision has a lot of business advantages for the company,” Carpenter said. “Certainly it will be great to capitalize on all of the synergies of the technical expertise being in one location.”

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Email: jdgilbert@cbs.com
Twitter: @jefferygilbert

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