Skip to main content

GM and Honda announce hydrogen fuel cell collaboration: Can they bring hydrogen to the mainstream?

2002 General Motors AUTOnomy conceptGeneral Motors and Honda will collaborate on hydrogen fuel cell technology, with the goal of having a “next-generation” fuel cell system, and a new way to store hydrogen, ready sometime around the year 2020.

The two companies feel collaboration will help quicken the notoriously slow pace of fuel cell development through shared experience, economies of scale, and the ability to source components from common sources.

However, neither company said exactly what the physical product of the collaboration would be; presumably a new fuel cell powertrain will be built, but how it will differ technologically from current powertrains is unknown.

That explains why the two companies are saying it will take at least seven years to development something.

GM and Honda also plan to work with other parties to improve the hydrogen refueling infrastructure. This is one of the main problems with hydrogen fuel cell cars in 2013 and will need to be attacked concurrently with development of the cars themselves in order for hydrogen daily drivers to be viable.

Perhaps GM and Honda will take it upon themselves to build a network of hydrogen gas stations (no pun intended), just as Tesla and Nissan are doing with electric vehicle charging stations. The latter has significantly increased the usability of EVs by making it less likely that drivers will run out of juice.

Honda FCX Clarity drivingThe plans may be vague, but GM and Honda both have significant fuel cell experience. Pooling those resources is like teaming up Superman and Batman to fight an incursion from Apokolips.

Honda began leasing its FCX fuel cell car in 2002, and used information from that program to build the FCX Clarity, the only vehicle currently on the road designed from the ground up for hydrogen power by a major automaker. Honda built a limited number of these midsize hatchbacks and began leasing them to customers in 2009.

GM first previewed fuel cell tech with the AUTOnomy and Hy-wire concepts, which featured “skateboard” chassis, drive-by-wire controls, and easily removable modular bodies.

General Motors has since put fuel cells on the road in a more down-to-earth way. Project Driveway, underway since 2007, has put a fleet of fuel cell-powered Chevrolet Equinox SUVs in the hands of consumers, racking up about 3 million miles of driving.

With that much experience behind them, could the collaboration between these two automotive stalwarts finally tip the balance and make hydrogen fuel cells mainstream? Stay tuned.

Do you think fuel cells are the future – or just part of it? Tell us in the comments.

Editors' Recommendations

Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
BMW may finally be ready to sell hydrogen fuel cell cars to the public
BMW i8 hydrogen fuel-cell prototype

BMW has been experimenting with hydrogen fuel cell cars for years, but unlike Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota, the German automaker hasn't put hydrogen cars into production. Forbes reports that BMW will launch a test fleet of fuel-cell X5 SUVs in the early 2020s, followed by a volume-production model, co-developed with Toyota, in 2025.

The hydrogen fuel-cell X5 will likely function as a sort of beta test vehicle, giving BMW real world data on fuel cell technology -- and customers' reactions to it. BMW did a similar thing with battery-electric cars, leasing the Active E and Mini E models to handpicked customers before the full-scale rollout of its first mass-produced electric car, the i3. It also makes sense for BMW to partner with Toyota on a series production model. Toyota has lots of experience with fuel cells, and the two automakers have an existing relationship. They previously partnered on the Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 sports car twins.

Read more
The Skai is a multipurpose flying car powered by hydrogen fuel cells
Alaka'i Technologies Skai



Read more
Amid concerns about EVs and batteries, Audi returns focus to hydrogen fuel cell
Audi h-tron quattro concept

Audi will be the Volkswagen Group's focal point for hydrogen fuel cell technology, according to AutoCar. Audi CEO Bram Schot stated the refocused h-tron fuel cell development effort is due to concerns about sufficient battery supplies for electric vehicles.

"We really want to speed it up,” Schot said. “We are going to put more priority into hydrogen fuel cells – more money, more capacity of people and more confidence."

Read more