With a promise to have “compelling and affordable fuel cell vehicles on the road by the end of the decade,” General Motors Corp. rolls out the first photos of its Hy-wire, the world's first drivable vehicle that combines a hydrogen fuel cell with by-wire controls. The roll-out will culminate in a live demonstration of the Hy-wire, a working version of the AUTOnomy concept that bowed at the Detroit auto show in January, at the Paris motor show Sept. 26.

A series of product meetings beginning in late July and led by Larry Burns, GM's vice president of research and development and planning, are the first steps in GM's goal to be “the first auto maker to produce 1 million fuel-cell-powered vehicles.”

“The fact that we developed Hy-wire as a drivable concept vehicle in just eight months (from its Detroit debut) shows our commitment to this technology and the speed at which we are progressing,” says Rick Wagoner, GM's president and CEO.

The Hy-wire has a truly international pedigree. The largely glass-encased body, designed by Stile Bertone of Italy, is about the size of a 5-seat European luxury sedan and rides on an 11-in. (28-cm) thick fiberglass skateboard-like platform, developed by GM researchers at Adam Opel AG facilities in Mainz-Kastel, Germany. Sweden-based SKF Group developed the by-wire technology in the Netherlands and in Italy.

“By combining fuel cell and by-wire technology, we've packaged this vehicle in a new way, opening up a new world of chassis architectures and customized bodies for individualized expression,” says Chris Borroni-Bird, director of GM's Design and Technology Fusion Group and program director of the Hy-wire concept.

Ed Welburn, executive director at GM Design for Body-on-Frame Architectures, is enthusiastic about Hy-wire's possibilities and notes that GM in the future may have only five “skateboard” platforms to handle almost all of its light vehicle models worldwide.

With the Hy-wire's “X-drive,” the by-wire technology, steering, braking and other vehicle systems are controlled electronically from a set of handgrips that can be mounted anywhere within the vehicle.

“Think about the emerging markets like China where we could create something like the buckboard,” that 19th century horse-drawn vehicle that hauled cargo around and across the U.S., Welburn says.

Hy-wire will be powered by a 94-Kw fuel stack, developed in part by Giner Electrochemical Systems LLC of Newton, MA. It drives four electric motors — one at each wheel — capable of propelling it to 97 mph (160 km/h).