Honda and General Motors are getting serious about producing fuel cell vehicles. The companies are joining forces to build advanced fuel cell systems together. They plan to start mass producing them by 2020.
In a first for the industry, Honda and GM will create the a joint company called Fuel Cell System Manufacturing. It will be headquartered at GM’s plant in Brownstown, Michigan. It’s also where GM builds the lithium-ion battery packs in the Volt. The new fuel cell production will add 100 jobs there.
This isn’t the first fuel cell collaboration between GM and Honda. It’s born out of a 2013 agreement to swap intellectual property. They’ll equally share the cost of the $85 million venture.
“Over the past three years, engineers from Honda and GM have been working as one team with each company providing know-how from its unique expertise to create a compact and low-cost next-generation fuel cell system,” says Toshiaki Mikoshiba, president of Honda North America.
Both companies will use the mutually developed technology in their own individual lineups. But the fuel cells they build won’t just be for vehicles. The automakers are also exploring military, residential and aerospace uses for the systems.
Already, the companies are showing off the first concept of their next-generation fuel cell. It’s more compact than previous ones we’ve seen. Basically, it looks like a metal box with a weird shaped panel on one side. But it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Fuel cells work by creating a chemical reaction from coated plates. The resulting elements are hydrogen and oxygen. These two are then funneled to create electricity with a water vapor runoff.
“We can safely say that today’s announcement officially marks the arrival of fuel cells,” says Dan Nicholson, VP of Global Propulsion Systems at GM.
The other big part of the equation is building fuel stations to make vehicles more marketable. GM and Honda will both work with the U.S. Government to build a bigger nationwide network.
The Honda Clarity arrived last year. The Toyota Mirai before that in 2015. But a lack of a nationwide fuel cell network has limited supply to places like California (no surprise there).
With the cost of lithium-ion batteries and gasoline both dropping, it will be interesting to see what kind of demand there will be for these cars.
Photo Credit: General Motors