GM helps Virgin Atlantic Airways go green


Frequent travelers to the city of lights and Entertainment will be happy to know that Virgin Atlantic Airways will now be using Chevrolet Equinox hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for its “complimentary ground transfer service for upper class passengers” for planes landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The announcement was made by Virgin Atlantic President Sir Richard Branson and Dr. Lawrence Burns, GM vice president of Research & Development and Strategic planning at a news conference in New York. The partnership is part of GM initiative Project Driveway.

Project Driveway is the world’s largest fuel cell vehicle test ever – placing more than 100 zero emissions electric vehicles powered by hydrogen on the streets of key markets in the U.S. and around the world.

Beginning later in March, Virgin will use three zero-petroleum, zero-emission Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicles, fueled with hydrogen, as ground transportation shuttles, running to and from the airport serving the Los Angeles area. The partnership opens the door to possible future activities between Chevrolet and Virgin, involving the same type of service for New York. In addition, the relationship will help build awareness of environmentally friendly technologies and their sustainability.

The deal will help the Virgin brand reduce its carbon footprint on the ground, which is an important cornerstone of company’s environmental strategy.

“Our mission to be the sustainable airline is clear, both on the ground and in the air. Partnerships such as this with General Motors show that we are pioneering in the aviation industry when it comes to reducing emissions at every stage of our passengers’ journey,” said Sir Richard Branson.

Enabled by GM’s fourth-generation hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system, the Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicle is a fully functional crossover vehicle. During the Project Driveway test, consumers in suburban Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C. will drive more than 100 of these vehicles for three months and report their experiences to Chevrolet. The drivers have free use of the vehicles, including the hydrogen fuel it needs to make electricity onboard as well as insurance, in exchange for their valuable feedback. A small number of the Project Driveway vehicles will also be deployed to other parts of the world, including Germany and Asia.

Aside from its dramatically different propulsion system, the Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicle looks and drives much like a production Chevy Equinox crossover. The fuel cell system fits within the space of the conventional engine compartment. The nickel-metal hydride battery pack, which stores energy from the regenerative braking system to increase operating efficiency and boost acceleration when needed, sits under the floor in the middle of the vehicle. Three compressed hydrogen storage tanks, made of carbon fiber for strength and pressurized to 10,000 pounds per square inch (psi), are located under the rear seats and cargo area. They contain roughly nine pounds (4.2 kg) of hydrogen. The Equinox fuel cell has a range of approximately 150 miles (241 km’s) when fully fueled.

Outside, the Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicle fascia sports Chevy’s horizontally split grille, along with extra cooling air inlets in the lower front corners. At the rear, the new fascia under the bumper has four thin vertical slits in place of the exhaust pipe; they release the clean water vapor emissions. This patented design lets onlookers know that this is no ordinary internal combustion engine vehicle.

The Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle boasts a long list of standard safety features including driver and passenger frontal air bags and roof rail side-impact air bags; anti-lock braking system (ABS) and StabiliTrak stability enhancement technology.