Honda and GM make the push for hydrogen fuel cell cars together

Honda and General Motors (GM) are investing $85 million each to co-develop advanced hydrogen fuel cell powertrains for use in their future models.

Officials from GM and Honda, however, downplayed the Trump effect, saying the investment is part of a planned step in their joint development of a fuel cell system both companies intend to deploy in next-generation hydrogen fuel cell vehicles around 2020.

The collaboration, called Fuel Cell System Manufacturing, will set up shop in GM's Brownstown, Michigan plant where the battery pack for the Chevrolet Volt is also being produced.

GM and Honda joined forces over hydrogen in 2013 in a bid to keep development costs down by sharing expertise and hydrogen fuel-cell intellectual property. They expect the new plant to create 100 jobs.

"They are not a science project anymore, they are a mainstream alternative energy source", Dan Nicholson, GM's vice president of global propulsion systems, said at a press conference Monday. Their use in passenger vehicles "will create more differentiated and environmentally friendly transportation options for consumers".

It will be operated by a board of directors, including three members of each company that will rotate into leadership positions.

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The Clarity Fuel Cell features a class-leading driving range rating for zero-emission vehicles with its EPA range rating of 366 miles and fuel economy rating of 68 miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent combined.

By combining their efforts, Honda and GM are hoping to help drive manufacturing costs lower, faster. One of the significant issues hydrogen powered vehicles face is their dependence on exotic and rare-earth materials the chemical processes going on inside require.

Technical specifications for the fuel cell engine have not been shared, at this stage, however the automakers are already talking up its efficiency.

Carmakers are more likely to partner on hydrogen fuel cell tech due to it's high cost of development, and therein lies the main foundation for this partnership.

General Motors and Honda are calling this joint venture Fuel Cell System Manufacturing, LLC. More recently, there have also been rumors that the two companies will collaborate on plug-in hybrid powertrains.

GM has worked for decades on the technology and since the late 1990s has invested almost $3 billion into fuel-cell technology. With slow sales and a very limited range of cars on the market, refuelling infrastructure is also limited, making it hard for owners to fully enjoy the driving range of their cars.

  • Ronnie Bowen