Honda and GM Launch Joint Fuel Cell Manufacturing Plant

Could GM and Honda partnership get efficient fuel cell vehicles on the market faster?

General Motors (GM) and Honda announced in January a joint manufacturing venture to mass produce advanced hydrogen fuel cells to be used in future products from both companies.

The new company, to be called Fuel Cell System Manufacturing LLC, will operate out of GM’s current battery pack manufacturing plant in Brownstone, MI, near Detroit.

Both companies are investing USD$85 million each in the new venture, which is expected to start pumping out fuel cells by 2020.

Hydrogen fuel cell technology holds potential for reducing dependency on fossil fuels and emissions, while also improving fuel efficiency, vehicle range and travel times. Hydrogen can be produced from renewable sources like wind and biomass, while the only emissions that come from hydrogen cell–powered vehicles are water vapor.

To date, one of the barriers for hydrogen cells has been the cost of producing them and thus they have been limited to more large-scale applications, such as public transit buses.

This joint venture into fuel cell manufacturing is part of a master collaboration agreement between GM and Honda that began in 2013 and one the companies hope will break down barriers to provide reliable, efficient and affordable fuel cell technology.

“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.”

While GM is currently demonstrating the capacity of fuel cells across a variety of land, sea and air applications, Honda launched its brand-new Clarity fuel cell vehicle in the US in December 2016.

According to Honda, the collaboration lets the companies use their individual strengths to get fuel cell vehicles onto the market more quickly.

“The expertise Honda has established that led to the creation of the first-generation Clarity fuel cell system is valuable experience that we are leveraging in the joint development of the next-generation fuel cell system with GM,” said Takashi Sekiguchi, Honda’s managing officer and director and chief operating officer of automotive operations.

“Our collaboration is an opportunity to further utilize the strengths of each company to popularize fuel cell vehicles at the earliest possible time.”

You can check out the full news conference announcement about the fuel cell venture at Honda’s YouTube page.