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