On July 2, General Motors and Honda Motor Company announced that they will collaborate on developing a next-generation fuel cell system and hydrogen storage technologies to be unveiled by the end of 2020 at a press conference in Manhattan, NY.

The two automobile manufacturers will also work together (along with stakeholders) to further advance the nation’s hydrogen refueling infrastructure, which is crucial in supporting the long-term viability and consumer acceptance of fuel cell vehicles.

Both GM and Honda have successfully implemented hydrogen fuel cell technologies in the past. In 2007, GM launched a fleet of over one hundred Chevrolet Equinoxes, which accumulated more than three million miles of consumer road testing. Honda has produced around one hundred units of its FCX Clarity model, a fuel cell vehicle that is available on a lease-only basis in the USA, Europe, and Japan.

Equinox FCV refueling

In 2007, GM launched a fleet of 119 Chevrolet Equinoxes as part of its Project Driveway Program. A zero emissions Chevrolet Equinox is pictured above. Credit: NAFTC.


Pictured above is a Honda FCX Clarity, Honda’s fuel cell vehicle that is available for lease in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. Credit: NAFTC.

In addition, according to the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index, GM and Honda rank no. 1 and no. 2 (respectively) in total fuel cell patents filed between 2002 and 2012. Combined, the vehicle manufacturers have filed more than 1,200 fuel cell patents.

“This collaboration builds upon Honda and GM’s strengths as leaders in hydrogen fuel cell technology,” said Dan Akerson, GM chairman and CEO. “We are convinced this is the best way to develop this important technology, which has the potential to help reduce the dependence on petroleum and establish sustainable mobility.”

As Akerson hints, fuel cell technologies can offer considerable environmental benefits. Fuel cell vehicles are classified as zero emission vehicles, since they only emit water vapors. In addition, fuel cell vehicles are highly efficient, use renewable fuels, and can run continuously (as long as fuel is available). Disadvantages of fuel cell vehicles include high production costs and a less-established refueling infrastructure.

Takanobu Ito, president and CEO of Honda, commented on several of the advantages of fuel cell vehicles. “Among all zero CO2 emission technologies, fuel cell electric vehicles have a definitive advantage with range and refueling time that is as good as conventional gasoline cars.” He added, “Honda and GM are eager to accelerate the market penetration of this ultimate clean mobility technology, and I am excited to form this collaboration to fuse our leading fuel cell technologies and create an advanced system that will be both more capable and more affordable.”

GM and Honda’s collaboration marks a recent trend in the automotive industry: more and more major automakers are turning to development of zero emission fuel cell vehicles in order to help meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

For example, back in January, Ford Motor Company, Renault-Nissan, and Daimler formed a fuel cell partnership. BMW and Toyota have entered into a similar agreement. And while Hyundai and Volkswagen have not entered into fuel cell partnerships, the two major automobile companies are working on developing fuel cell technologies independently.

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