Not Giving up on Hydrogen, GM and Honda Announce Joint Venture in Michigan

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

A quick look at the automotive landscape of 2017 tells us that electricity, long relegated to golf courses and RC cars, is the chosen successor to gasoline and diesel propulsion. However, automakers are hedging their bets on the best way to create those electrons.

Despite a critically meager refueling infrastructure, hydrogen lives on as a potential source for that energy, and select automakers continue a quest to equip our future vehicles with containers of lighter-than-air gas. To this end, General Motors and Honda partnered up back in 2013.

Now, we know the next step in the two automotive rivals’ plan.

Announced today, GM and Honda will form a manufacturing joint venture based out of GM’s Brownstown, Michigan battery pack facility. Carrying the name Fuel Cell System Manufacturing, LLC, the venture kicked off following two investments totaling $85 million. The purpose of the venture is simple: produce fuel cells, starting in 2020, to power future models.

Both automakers have a good grasp on the technology, with each holding numerous patents. GM created its first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in 1966, though that space program creation was designed to test the technology for use on other heavenly bodies. Honda currently sells the Clarity — one of the very few hydrogen-powered vehicles on the market.

The two companies signed a collaboration agreement in 2013, combining the work of both development teams towards a goal of creating next-generation fuel cells and hydrogen storage systems. If the future does run on electricity created from hydrogen, GM and Honda want to be leaders.

Apparently, engineers didn’t just spend the past three years doodling. There’s something to show for their efforts.

“With the next-generation fuel cell system, GM and Honda are making a dramatic step toward lower cost, higher-volume fuel cell systems,” said Charlie Freese, GM executive director of Global Fuel Cell Business.

“Precious metals have been reduced dramatically and a fully cross-functional team is developing advanced manufacturing processes simultaneously with advances in the design. The result is a lower-cost system that is a fraction of the size and mass.”

Unlike vehicle design, fuel cell development follows the “smaller, lighter, cheaper” mantra. Unfortunately, these advances benefit absolutely no one if there’s nowhere to fuel up a vehicle. That’s where the advocacy side of the partnership comes in.

“The two companies also continue to work with governments and other stakeholders to further advance the refueling infrastructure that is critical for the long-term viability and consumer acceptance of fuel cell vehicles,” Honda said in a statement.

[Image: Honda]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Stingray65 Stingray65 on Jan 30, 2017

    Hydrogen is dead as long as oil remains around $50 per barrel, and with Trump building pipelines and encouraging energy production, oil will remain at current levels for potentially decades to come.

  • Tosh Tosh on Feb 02, 2017

    Dirty GM tactic to ruin Honda by spending on big-oil driven fuel cell project, and then pick up the pieces. And Honda was already spending itself lightheaded on F1, so there is LESS THAN NO MONEY left for actual Honda consumer product in the near term. Bye Honda.

  • JOHN One is for sale on an ebay car donation site.
  • Scott So they are losing hundreds of millions of dollars and they are promising us a “Cheaper EV”? I wonder how that will look and feel? They killed the Fiesta because they claimed that they couldn’t make a profit on them and when I bought the first one in late 2010 they couldn’t deliver the accessories I wanted for it! Then I bought a 2016 Fiesta ST and again couldn’t get the accessories for it I wanted. They claimed that the components were going to be available, eventually. So they lost on that one as well! I don’t care about what they say anymore. I’ve moved on to another brand.
  • Michael S6 CX 70 or 90 will not be on my buying list. Drove a rental base CX 90 and it was noisy and the engine noise was not pleasant. Ride was rough for a family SUV. Mazda has to understand that what is good for Miata isn't what we expect in semi luxury SUV. My wife's 2012 Buick Enclave has much better Ride and noise level albeit at worse gas millage. Had difficulty pairing my phone with Apple CarPlay
  • Michael S6 What is the metric conversion between one million barrels and the number of votes he expects to buy.
  • NJRide This could give Infiniti dealers an extra product maybe make it a sub brand