General Motors and Honda executives announced this morning that they will partner to co-develop a hydrogen fuel cell system for use in consumer automobiles. According to the automakers, the co-developed fuel cell system could be employed in production vehicles by 2020.
That’s nearly five years after Toyota intends on launching a commercialized hydrogen fuel cell vehicle into the market – but it is the first true fuel cell vehicle timeframe we’ve heard from GM in quite some time.
During a press conference held with Honda North America president Tetsuro Iwamura, GM vice chairman Steve Girsky says the cooperation will primarily focus on developing a common fuel cell drive system – not a common fuel cell vehicle -- that can be employed by both automakers.
“We can do this far more efficiently than if we did it separately,” Girsky said. “As the two established leaders in this field, when we combine our talents and expertise, we believe we can and will accomplish more than anyone else can.”
Honda has already announced it planned on introducing an advanced iteration of its FCV Clarity fuel cell vehicle – which first launched in 2008 -- by 2015. Iwamura confirmed that vehicle will be an evolution of Honda’s current in-house fuel cell technology, but future vehicles will utilize the powertrain developed with GM.
General Motors’ fuel cell research first began in the 1960s, but was renewed again in the early 2000s, when the company built a number of fuel-cell-powered Opel Zafira prototypes for public demonstration. Most recently, GM’s Project Driveway placed a small number of fuel cell Chevrolet Equinoxes in service with a number of fleet and private users. Honda’s earliest FCX demonstrators were launched in 1999, but the FCX Clarity – the closest to a mass-market fuel cell vehicle the industry has seen to date – didn’t launch for another decade.
Girsky and Iwamura shied away from questions regarding precise fiscal investments, but Girsky noted this project involves “complete sharing of all our intellectual property” regarding hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Such synergies are not uncommon amongst automakers, especially when attempting to amortize the high engineering and manufacturing costs involved with fuel cell systems. Earlier this year, Ford, Daimler, and Nissan announced they’d forged a new partnership in the hopes of developing a mass-market hydrogen fuel cell system by 2017. Toyota and BMW’s recent cooperation arrangement covers several fronts, including the development of hydrogen fuel cell technologies.
GM and Honda aren’t corporate strangers, either. The two entered an agreement in late 1999 that led to Honda supplying its 3.5-liter V-6 for use in the Saturn Vue crossover. In return, Honda gained access to an Isuzu-built turbo-diesel for use in European-market Civics.
Even so, both automakers remained quite proud of their own fuel cell research and progress, and were previously reluctant to share it with other parties. But, according to both Girsky and Iwamura, this new relationship was born from mutual respect of each company’s achievements, and the discovery that their teams’ work “largely complimented one another.”
“We work well with Honda and have a lot of respect for what they’ve done in this area,” Girsky said. “We both have a significant amount of intellectual property in this area that complements one another, but if there are things that can help Honda’s 2015 project, then we’re happy to help.”
GM and Honda will also pursue and promote the development of hydrogen fueling infrastructure with public partners, but details on that goal are vague at this point in time.
Source: GM, Honda