Fuel for Thought: GM’s Fuel Cell Director Visits Nazareth Campers

August 17, 2010

On August 6th one of just 100 fuel cell Chevy Equinoxes  in existence made a stop at Nazareth College of Rochester.   

The fuel cell Equinox accompanied Dan O’Connell, a Nazareth alumni and Director of the Fuel Cell Group of General Motors. O’Connell and his innovative car were on campus to present to elementary students attending the Infotonics Summer Camp at Nazareth.  

Campers listened intently as Mr. O’Connell, one of the leaders on the team that developed GM’s Hydrogen Car, talked about the future of the automotive industry and their future as citizens of the Earth.  

“Our goal is to get the vehicle out of the environmental debate,” O’Connell told them, “Get away from petroleum and use other things.”   

The fuel cell Equinox uses  zero petroleum and creates zero emissions. Currently 96% of the world’s transportation energy comes from gasoline, but hydrogen power comes from renewable sources like water, solar, and wind.  

The campers asked great questions and were quick to point out that the oil spill in the Gulf Coast may not have happened if our nation was not so dependent on gasoline.  

O’Connell and his team developed the fuel cell Equinox at GM’s Research and Development headquarters in nearby Honeyoye Falls, New York.  One hundred Hydrogen powered Chevy Equinox’s are being driven by households across the United States in the largest ever market-test of fuel cell vehicles. The hydrogen used to power the Equinox O’Connell brought with him comes from Niagara Falls.  

There are currently 100 stations in the United States equipped with Hydrogen fuel  – ten of which are in New York State and three in the Rochester area (Honeyoye Falls, The Rochester Institute of Technology, and the Monroe County Airport)  

Nazareth grad and GM's Fuel Cell Group Director Dan O'Connell presents to campers.

Part of Mr. O’ Connell’s presentation included a music video with GM spokespeople and rock stars “The Jonas Brothers,” but the true superstar of the afternoon was the car itself!  

After O’Connell’s classroom talk the campers followed him to a parking lot at Nazareth where the Equinox was parked.  Campers clambered to get photos with the super-star car and to climb inside. O’Connell took each camper for a ride around campus.  

“I love the design,” said camper Alex Repp, a sixth grader. “I love how it was made because petroleum ruins our environment and hydrogen doesn’t.  I would love to have one in my driveway some day.”  

Another camper enamored by the vehicle was Jason O’Connell, a fourth grader from Victor, who is the son of Dan O’Connell. Jason expressed pride in his Dad for his role in developing this vehicle. “If more people would buy fuel cell cars we could change the world,” Jason said.  

Article and photos by Caurie Miner Putnam, Coordinator of the STEM Mentor Program of the Rochester Area Colleges Center for Excellence in Math and Science.