General Motors yesterday unveiled its plans for a large-scale test of fuel cell vehicles across the globe, which will include stints in Asia, Europe and North America. The tests are set to be the largest and most comprehensive ever for a car manufacturer and will range anywhere from several dozen vehicles to as many as 100 at any one time in each region. Pictured above is GM's AUTOnomy, one of its first fuel cell prototypes. The real world test will include cars that are much closer to production versions such as GM’s Equinox Fuel Cell SUV.

Some major issues that still plague fuel cells including recharge time and low mileage rates will be addressed. However, GM is already close to developing a reliable fuel cell vehicle. Its Equinox fuel cell can already travel 360km and reach speeds of up to 160km/h. The large scale tests will allow GM to gather extensive data over a short period. Japanese carmakers have been conducting real world tests for months now and China's infant car industry is already well underway in the development of fuel cell powered vehicles.

The test data will be used to help develop the first range of production versions due in 2010. Testing will kick of the US sometime in the first half of this year with an initial batch of 100 fuel-cell vehicles being leased to individuals and private firms. The next phase will see fleets testing in parts of Asia and Europe.