General Motors Co. and Honda Motor Co. are establishing an $85-million operation near Detroit to manufacture hydrogen fuel cells, which will be adopted by both automakers for future vehicles. Fuel Cell System Manufacturing LLC will operate within GM's existing battery pack manufacturing facility site at Brownstown, Mich., with mass production of fuel cell systems expected to start “around 2020,” according to an announcement.
The two automakers did not project the production volume for their new venture’s fuel-cell products. Fuel Cell System Manufacturing will employ about 100, according to GM and Honda in their statement. A board of six directors will oversee the organization, with three executives appointed by each partner, with a rotating chairman and a president to be appointed in rotation by each company.
In 2013 Honda and GM established the co-development arrangement in which they agreed to develop “a next-generation fuel cell system” and hydrogen storage technologies. They integrated their development teams and shared hydrogen fuel cell intellectual property, the result of which they now claim is “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," stated Toshiaki Mikoshiba, North American chief operating officer for Honda Motor Co. Ltd., and president & 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," Mikoshiba added.
Between them, GM and Honda hold over 2,220 patents for fuel cell products and systems, with GM ranking first and Honda ranking third in total fuel-cell patents filed for 2002-2015, according to the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index.
Presently, GM and Honda are working together to reduce the cost of development and manufacturing through economies of scale and common sourcing. They also are working with governments and other stakeholders to advance the refueling infrastructure for fuel-cell vehicles, GM is demonstrating the capability of fuel cells in various land, sea, and air applications. This includes “millions of miles of real-world driving” accumulated in fuel-cell vehicles.
Honda began making its Clarity Fuel Cell vehicle available to U.S. customers in December, following a spring 2016 launch in Japan. With its range of 366 miles, the Clarity Fuel Cell received the best driving range rating from U.S. EPA of any electric vehicle without a combustion engine. It has gasoline-equivalent fuel economy rating of 68 miles per gallon.
"The combination of two leaders in fuel-cell innovation is an exciting development in bringing fuel cells closer to the mainstream of propulsion applications," stated Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. "The eventual deployment of this technology in passenger vehicles will create more differentiated and environmentally friendly transportation options for consumers."