Former GM Chair Visits Today


    GRAND RAPIDS — Robert Stempel, retired chairman and CEO of General Motors Corp. and current chairman and CEO of Energy Conservation Devices Inc., will speak at the Economic Club of Grand Rapids luncheon today about the “hydrogen economy” of the future.

    The focus at Energy Conservation Devices is on advanced energies, and the company is especially intent on tapping into the energy of the sun and of hydrogen. The Rochester Hills-based company creates products for the generation, storage and transportation of non-polluting, non-climate changing energy.

    Many people, including officials at EDC, are convinced that hydrogen is the real fuel of the future, said Dick Thompson, the company’s director of communications. Why? Because hydrogen is clean and efficient and, as the most common element in the universe, it’s readily available, he said.

    “We feel things like hydrogen-powered vehicles are not too far down the road,” Thompson commented. 

    One of the things Stempel will talk about today is a hydrogen-powered vehicle owned by EDC. The company took a Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle and retrofitted it to run on clean hydrogen using the car’s existing internal combustion engine. Fuel cells are still 10 to 15 years away, Thompson noted, but hydrogen is here now. This project shows that with a relatively minor retrofit, any internal combustion vehicle can be powered by hydrogen today, he added. 

    “If we set our minds to it, we could run virtually every internal combustion engine on the road today with hydrogen instead of oil,” Thompson remarked. “We could get away from imported oil and dirty air and all those things. And it would teach us lessons on how to get to fuel cells in the future.”

    However, Thompson acknowledged, the country still has to get around to developing an energy policy and a focus on new fuels.

    ECD holds more than 350 U.S. patents and more than 600 foreign patents covering basic material compositions, product applications and manufacturing processes. The patents form the basis for many licensing agreements, as well as manufacturing and commercialization alliances. 

    Stempel retired from General Motors after 34 years with the company. He is considered one of the world’s foremost automobile engineers. His vision is to produce zero emission vehicles by the end of the decade.   

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