Teaming up can be a good thing, especially when the goal at hand involves significant and disruptive change. That’s what is involved in bringing transportation into an envisioned hydrogen age, a goal for normally petroleum-focused automakers that are working hard toward this zero-emission future. Many automakers have had dynamic hydrogen vehicle development programs in motion for years now, and in some cases decades. Strategic partnering has been a part of this, most notably between auto manufacturers, hydrogen fuel providers, and the federal government
Now, two leading hydrogen vehicle developers – Honda and GM – have agreed to jointly develop next-generation fuel cell systems and hydrogen storage technologies. This partnership will leverage the significant advancements each of the companies has already made in their hydrogen vehicle programs, sharing expertise, common sourcing strategies, and economies of scale. Together they hold more than 1,200 fuel cell patents.
Each automaker has also shown significant progress in putting hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on the road. GM, for instance, launched its ‘Project Driveway’ fuel cell demonstration fleet in 2007, placing 119 fuel cell vehicles in fleet service and accumulating three million miles along the way. Honda began leasing its FCX fuel cell hatchback in 2002 and then developed its very sophisticated FCX Clarity limited production sedan, which has been leased to select consumers in the U.S.
How this will influence Honda’s plan to launch a successor of its FCX Clarity in the U.S. and Japan in 2015 remains to be seen, or GM’s as-yet unannounced timeline for introducing its first production fuel cell vehicle to the market. What we do know is this new alliance is aiming at creating an advanced and more capable next-generation fuel cell system that will also be more affordable than those available today, plus improved hydrogen storage technologies, with an eye toward the 2020 time frame.