General Motors Brownstown Township factory for assembly of Chevrolet Volt battery packsEnlarge Photo
General Motors and Honda on Tuesday announced plans to produce a next-generation hydrogen fuel cell system together starting around 2020.
The two automakers are making equal investments totaling $85 million in the joint venture, labeled Fuel Cell System Manufacturing, and will use the resulting fuel cells for future products from their respective brands.
It’s not unusual for rival automakers to collaborate in such a manner. For example, even as far back as 1999, GM and Honda collaborated in a powertrain cross-supply arrangement under which Honda manufactured 50,000 V-6 engines for the Saturn Vue and Honda received diesel engines from GM’s Isuzu affiliate for use in Europe.
They have been collaborating on the development of the next-generation fuel cell system as well as hydrogen storage solutions since 2013, including sharing intellectual property to help accelerate the development and reduce the cost of the technologies.
2017 Honda Clarity Fuel CellEnlarge Photo
The automakers say fuel cells address two issues that currently plague battery-powered electric cars: range and refueling times. They admit that the lengthy and costly installation of hydrogen refueling infrastructure is critical for the long-term viability and consumer acceptance of fuel cell vehicles, and that addressing this issue will require continued work with governments and other stakeholders.
Of course, some of the main benefits of battery-powered electric cars never mentioned by hydrogen proponents include the ability to charge at home, the relatively low cost of electricity, and, in some cases, the self-sufficiency of using solar panels.
The joint venture will operate within GM’s existing battery plant located in Brownstown, Michigan and will see around 100 jobs created.
While GM is yet to introduce a fuel cell to the market, Honda has already sold a handful, the latest being the 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell. Honda is also a member of the recently established Hydrogen Council, an initiative representing 13 automakers and energy companies that aims to promote hydrogen as the ideal alternative to carbon-based fuels.