Over the 100- years of the automobile, there have been many promises to "reinvent" this ubiquitous form of 4-wheel transport.
We may now be on the brink of realizing that promise with the fuel cell, and at the North American International Auto Show, General Motors has shown us how with its AUTOnomy concept.
Essentially, the idea is to package the fuel cell, its fuel source and the electronics in a 6-in.-tall platform that provides the base for the vehicle. The wheels, with hub-mounted electric motors, and the suspension are hung off this structure to form what is called a skateboard. By using electronic interfaces with the steering, throttle and braking, there's no need for a steering column or traditional pedals, and the driver can be positioned just about anywhere in the vehicle.
While AUTOnomy is being shown as a futuristic 2-place sports car, any number of body shapes, from a 5-place passenger car to an 8-place minivan to a pickup truck, can be fitted to the skateboard. The platform could be designed to last 20 years, with owners periodically updating the bodies or renting bodies that fit their particular needs.
Better yet is the technology contained in that platform. By using renewable, clean hydrogen as a fuel, it no longer means that the automobile is a source of concerns about the environment and energy. And as a clean source of electrical energy, even when parked in your garage, AUTOnomy can be tapped into for meeting household power needs. That's not just reinvention, it's revolution.