GM, Honda to Mass Produce Hydrogen Fuel Cell System

General Motors Co. (GM) and Honda plan to establish a manufacturing joint venture that would mass produce an advanced hydrogen fuel cell system to be used in future products from each company.

According to the automakers, Fuel Cell System Manufacturing LLC will operate within GM’s existing battery pack manufacturing facility site in Brownstown, Mich., south of Detroit. Mass production of fuel cell systems is expected to begin around 2020 and create nearly 100 new jobs.

As reported, the companies are making equal investments totaling $85 million in the joint venture.

Honda and GM say they have been working together through a master collaboration agreement announced in July 2013, which established the co-development arrangement for a next-generation fuel cell system and hydrogen storage technologies. The companies integrated their development teams and shared hydrogen fuel cell intellectual property to create a more affordable commercial solution for fuel cell and hydrogen storage systems.

“Over the past three years, engineers from Honda and GM have been working as one team with each company, providing know-how from its unique expertise to create a compact and low-cost next-generation fuel cell system,” says Toshiaki Mikoshiba, chief operating officer of the North American region for Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and president and CEO of American Honda Co. Inc. and Honda North America Inc. “This foundation of outstanding teamwork will now take us to the stage of joint mass production of a fuel cell system that will help each company create new value for our customers in fuel cell vehicles of the future.”

The Fuel Cell System Manufacturing joint venture will be operated by a board of directors consisting of three executives from each company that will include a rotating chairperson. In addition, a president will be appointed to rotate between each company.

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GM and Honda are acknowledged leaders in fuel cell technology, with more than 2,220 patents between them, according to the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index. GM and Honda rank No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in total fuel cell patents filed in 2002 through 2015.

“The combination of two leaders in fuel cell innovation is an exciting development in bringing fuel cells closer to the mainstream of propulsion applications,” says Mark Reuss, GM’s executive vice president in global product development and purchasing and supply chain. “The eventual deployment of this technology in passenger vehicles will create more differentiated and environmentally friendly transportation options for consumers.”

In addition to advancing the performance of the fuel cell system, GM and Honda are working together to reduce the cost of development and manufacturing through economies of scale and common sourcing. 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.

GM says it is currently demonstrating the capability of fuel cells across a range of land, sea and air applications. The company has accumulated millions of miles of real-world driving in fuel cell vehicles.

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“With the next-generation fuel cell system, GM and Honda are making a dramatic step toward lower-cost, higher-volume fuel cell systems. Precious metals have been reduced dramatically, and a fully cross-functional team is developing advanced manufacturing processes simultaneously with advances in the design,” says Charlie Freese, GM’s executive director of global fuel cell business. “The result is a lower-cost system that is a fraction of the size and mass.”

Honda began delivery of its all-new Clarity Fuel Cell vehicle to U.S. customers in December 2016. According to Honda, the Clarity Fuel Cell received the best driving range rating from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of any electric vehicle without a combustion engine with a range rating of 366 miles and fuel economy rating of 68 miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent combined.

“The expertise Honda has established that led to 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,” notes Takashi Sekiguchi, managing officer and director and chief operating officer of automotive operations at Honda Motor Co. Ltd. “Our collaboration is an opportunity to further utilize the strengths of each company to popularize fuel cell vehicles at the earliest possible time.”

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