At this past week's L.A. Auto show press days, a Green Car ride and Drive event was organized for media. Credentialed journalists could sign up and pick a time slot to briefly drive specific vehicles. The selection of vehicles on hand included every “green” under the sun from the Audi A3 TDI
to the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid all the way to the Volkswagen Touareg TDI
Amongst the other vehicles in the L.A. Convention Centre's garage were a Volkswagen Polo 1.6 TDI and a Chevrolet Equinox FCV. In the case of the Polo, my quick stink downtown was more for pleasure than business but let me say that this little car would fit very nicely along side the new Ford Fiesta
and Mazda2 in the segment.
Now, time for work. I picked the Equinox for a few reasons. The first was that General Motors was responsible for my presence in L.A. More importantly, I had already been introduced to GM's FCV program a while back when I was given the tour of the General's Oshawa plant where the Equinoxes were being assembled.
Before I go on with my driving impressions, I want to quickly make note that GM launched a program called Project Driveway which is putting roughly 3000 participants in Los Angeles, New York, and Washington at the wheel of the Equinox for three-months at a time.
One hundred of these Equinoxes have been outfitted with GM's latest fourth-generation fuel cell system, their most advanced fuel cell propulsion system to date. The electric motor traction system fed by the FC provides the front wheels with mobility. As technology would have it, the fifth generation, propulsion system has been reduced to half the size using half the materials, therefore weighing and costing less.
A rare opportunity
As hydrogen refueling stations are the limiting factor in the ability to test drive an FCV, I was very happy to see the Equinox on the list of vehicles available for the drive. From a distance, the FCV looks like any other Equinox save for the chrome wheels a a slightly revised front fascia for improved engine compartment cooling. And essentially, that is all that most Equinox aficionados will ever notice. Once aboard, you would never guess that there is anything special with this Chevy.
Upon start-up, the sound generated by the system as it “pressures up” is almost like putting air in tires. After a few clicking noises, the Equinox goes off in perfect silence. What I had forgotten, as I was too enthralled by the hydrogen aspect, is the the FCV is basically an EV and the fuel cells are the energy source.