GM, Honda Join to Trim Cost of Fuel Cell Research

GM and Honda

GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky, (Left) and American Honda President Tetsuo Iwamura (Right)

Automotive News – July 8, 2013

by Mike Colias

DETROIT — General Motors and Honda Motor Co., pioneers in the development of fuel cell cars, are the latest automakers to join forces to help bring the pricey technology into the mainstream.

GM and Honda last week said they will partner to develop a common system for fuel cell vehicles, with the goal of getting them into showrooms by 2020. The companies said they will cut development costs in part by consolidating their supplier bases for fuel cell components.

The companies also said they will work to increase the number of hydrogen refueling stations. The lack of stations is considered the biggest barrier to widespread adoption.

The deal is the latest in a string of alliances created to share the cost of developing a promising but expensive alternative-fuel technology.

Toyota Motor Corp. and BMW AG paired up on a fuel cell production alliance in January. That same month, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. said they would develop a line of moderately priced fuel cell electric cars for sale as early as 2017.

Despite the high cost of refueling stations — $1 million to $2 million — automakers are pursuing the technology as part of a broad product approach to meeting stiffer carbon dioxide regulations later this decade. Hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery-powered vehicles also are part of the approach.

A fuel cell vehicle creates electricity from a chemical reaction involving hydrogen and oxygen in the car’s fuel cell stack. Similar to a battery-powered vehicle, the car uses electric motors to propel the car and batteries to store energy. Only water vapor is emitted through the tailpipe.

The cost of developing fuel cell vehicles is high in part because of the platinum that is used in the fuel cell stacks and the complexity of onboard storage of gaseous hydrogen, which requires expensive carbon fiber storage tanks.

GM and Honda said that their engineers will work side by side to create a common system for use by both automakers. They will share technology already developed and scheduled for commercial use, including the next generation of Honda’s FCX Clarity, which it plans to launch in Japan and the United States in 2015.

In prepared remarks to announce the agreement, GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky said: “We believe that together we can and will accomplish more than anyone else can.”

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