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News > Deals
GM makes fuel cell play
June 12, 2001: 2:34 p.m. ET

Invests in maker of hydrogen storage tanks to improve range of fuel cell cars
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - General Motors Corp. announced Tuesday it is buying a stake in a company working to develop tanks that can hold hydrogen, considered a necessary requirement for fuel cell-powered cars to achieve the same range as today's gas-powered vehicles.

The world's largest automaker said it is taking a significant equity stake in Quantum Technologies Inc., which has been a wholly owned subsidiary of alternative-fuel company Impco Technologies Inc. The company said that Quantum's technology has shown to have twice the range of competing hydrogen storage systems, and that preliminary tests have shown promising potential for improvement.

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Terms of the investment were not disclosed. News of the investment did little to move shares of GM (GM: down $0.14 to $59.00, Research, Estimates), but shares of Impco Technologies (IMCO: up $2.69 to $39.71, Research, Estimates) gained on the news.

The fuel cell can use plentiful hydrogen as the fuel and produce no waste other than water vapor. While fuel cells have been used in space craft and some other applications for years, the weight, range, and cost have prevented them from being practical for use in vehicles today.

But all the major automakers have been working on research and development projects involving the fuel cells and hydrogen storage.

The problems of hydrogen storage have prompted some fuel cell designs which use other fuel sources, such as natural gas or even gasoline. But those other sources are not as efficient or as clean-burning as a hydrogen fuel cell would be.

"Hydrogen is the end-game when it comes to powering our fuel cell vehicles," said a statement from Byron McCormick, co-director of the General Motors fuel cell program. "You must be able to store it and handle it properly and safely. Quantum has the expertise and practical experience to help GM realize its vision of making hundreds of thousands of fuel cell vehicles available to consumers."

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Los Angeles-based Impco makes equipment that allows traditional internal combustion engines to burn alternative fuels such as propane or natural gas. Its clients include major automakers and engine manufacturers. graphic

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