Honda, GM to invest in fuel cell systems

Automakers GM and Honda are teaming up on a new venture to jointly manufacture hydrogen fuel cells at scale, with plans to start mass production by 2020 and a combined investment of $85 million split evenly between the two companies dedicated to the effort. Executives from the two automakers say the plant will create almost 100 new jobs for Metro Detroit workers.

"With the next-generation fuel cell system, GM and Honda are making a dramatic step toward lower cost, higher-volume fuel cell systems". Nearly 100 new jobs are expected to be created, and both Honda and GM are putting a combined $85m into the joint venture. "The eventual deployment of this technology in passenger vehicles will create more differentiated and environmentally friendly transportation options for consumers".

More cars like the Clarity are coming. The company is convinced fuel cells will take an increasing share of the global automotive market, said Toshiaki Mikoshiba, chief operating officer for the North American region of Honda Motor Company. It will also involve a rotating chairperson and the appointment of a president to rotate between each company.

The main downside remains the fact that refueling stations are now scant.

GM is now demonstrating the capability of fuel cells across a range of land, sea and air applications.

Reuss says whatever happens in the regulatory environment, hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles are inevitable. California has perhaps the most extensive network of hydrogen refueling stations in the country, but even in the Golden State there are not many gas stations that have been equipped to refuel hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Analysts were guardedly enthusiastic about the nascent technology and the GM-Honda announcement.

It's worth noting that while Honda has invested in hybrid and now hydrogen fuel cell tech, the Japanese automaker has yet to produce a pure electric vehicle.

That includes more than 2,200 separate patents between them for inventions in not only the stack itself but also high-pressure storage technology for onboard hydrogen fuel.

GM and Honda already have an established collaboration agreement in place, due to Honda's advanced implementation of fuel cells in its Clarity sedan and in GM's unwillingness to release a fuel cell vehicle if it will quickly become obsolete.

Honda already has a fuel-cell auto available to regular consumers, the Clarity, which began shipping in the USA in December a year ago.

One way the GM-Honda fuel cell joint venture will reduce costs is by using common components and the same part numbers for the fuel cell systems, regardless of which vehicle brand it powers.

  • Audrey Hill