2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 05:39
Hundreds of US customers can now take a three-month test drive in the Chevrolet Equinox. The unusual fuel cell tour doesn't cost a cent.
By Stefan Grundhoff
The wavering giant General Motors wants to show with all its might that it has understood the signs of the future. More than any other manufacturer in the world, GM is promoting an electric automobile future. While the first hybrid models, the Chevrolet Tahoe and the GMC Yukon, are going on sale, the successful mid-range SUV Chevrolet Equinox is drawing a clean future in the blue US sky as a fuel cell vehicle. The USA and General Motors are far from relying solely on alternative drive systems. But something is happening at the US giant.
More driving fun, less fuel consumption
In the next few years, a number of different alternative drive options are to come onto the market for series vehicles. After the mighty Tahoe and Yukon sport utility vehicles, the exclusive Cadillac Escalade and the volume pick-up Silverado will follow in summer. All of them are available with a two-mode hybrid module on request, which increases driving pleasure and is intended to steer fuel consumption in city operation into bearable trajectories.
If that's not enough for you, the Chevrolet Equinox can already immerse yourself in a clean automotive future - at least for three months. While the mid-range SUV in the USA is powered by a 3.4-liter six-cylinder in normal gasoline mode, the situation is very different with the 110-vehicle fuel cell test fleet from General Motors. After the pacemakers Mercedes-Benz and Ford Motor Company, General Motors is now also drawn into broad customer testing of fuel cell vehicles.
Over 100 test vehicles in use
The “Driveway” project, which is scheduled to start in March, is so far considered the largest market test for fuel cell cars worldwide. "We will be delivering over 100 Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles to test customers in a timely manner," says Mark Bann, Program Manager. "Each of the selected customers will have the vehicle tested extensively for three months." Interested parties have been able to apply online to experience one of the white and gray fuel cell cars since the end of last year. “The demand is indescribably high,” says Mark Bann, “and not just because the test phase does not involve any costs. With the test, we want to get information about series use. We can do that best with such a practical test."
From the outside, there is hardly anything to suggest the clean fuel cell drive of the Equinox Fuel Cell. The front of the 4.80-meter-long and two-ton SUV alone, which is available as a front-wheel drive vehicle alone, has been slightly modified and provided with additional cooling inlets. The three hydrogen tanks are accident-proof behind the two individual seats in the rear. When pressurized up to 700 bar, they hold 4.2 kilograms of hydrogen. Although the car loses its fifth seat and a third of its trunk due to additional weight and additional tanks, it is still suitable for everyday use with a range of 320 kilometers.
Gas stations are missing
At least if you live within reach of a hydrogen pump. They are as rare in the USA as they are in Germany. There are a few hydrogen pumps in Detroit, New York, Washington, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Until the project is fully up and running in summer or autumn, however, some of them still have to rely on the necessary 700 bar technology because they currently only deliver 350 bar. Compared to the first generation models such as the technology showcase Chevrolet Sequel, the new Equinox can also be started at temperatures down to minus 25 degrees Celsius.
When driving, the Equinox Fuel Cell differs significantly from its gasoline-powered brother and the Canadian-Asian twin, the Suzuki XL-7. After a few seconds at the wheel, the electric motor has started up and we can start. The ears do not hear more than the rolling noise of the tires. The fuel cell SUV accelerates almost silently to 60 kilometers per hour. The feedback from the accelerator and steering seems all too artificial. You have to get used to it.
Tests also planned in Europe
How could it be otherwise, the Equinox makes a family cruiser. The two tons of empty weight make the car appear a bit sluggish. The combination of fuel cell and electric motor provides a maximum of 93 kilowatts and 320 Nm of torque. Another 35 kW come from the battery pack, which is supplied by a regenerative braking system.
The car is in continuous operation with 74 kW, which is the equivalent of around 100 hp. This means that the sprint potential from 0 to 100 km / h in twelve seconds and a top speed of 160 km / h is within limits. In the first phase, the 110 test models are only on the road in North America. In the medium term, however, vehicles should also come to Europe and Asia to test their suitability for everyday use.
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