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GM and Honda Just Announced Hydrogen Fuel Cell Development Partnership

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Honda FCX Clarity Fuel Cell Vehicle
Honda FCX Clarity Fuel Cell Vehicle

If two companies are working toward the same goal, in this case hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, then what better idea than to come together to achieve it together?

Some companies choose to go it alone, such as Tesla Motors and the Model S, the most successful automotive startup in the last fifty years. On the other hand, there have been spectacular failures in this same field, including Fisker Automotive and A123 Systems. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are similar in concept to electric vehicles, only the power source being different.

General Motors [GM] and Honda Motor Company are established leaders in hydrogen fuel cell vehicle technology, having filed upwards of 1,200 patents between them. According to the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index, GM and Honda are ranked first and second, respectively, in the advance of this advanced propulsion technology.

Of course, hydrogen fuel cell patents are nothing without an end product, and both companies have been providing real-world data in the form of millions of miles of hydrogen fuel cell vehicle driving. GM has a fleet of 119 HFC vehicles that have clocked nearly three million miles total. Honda has 85 FCX vehicles on the road, as well.

Since both companies are working toward this common goal, they’ve decided to work together, not to build a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, but to address the “two main challenges this technology faces, cost and infrastructure.” As we know, the cost of the fuel cell stack is prohibitively expensive, but advancements are bringing these costs down.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is establishing the infrastructure necessary to support a fleet of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Going forward, as GM and Honda share information and technology, look forward to seeing further developments in infrastructure, working together with H2USA to expand the number of fueling stations across the US.

Finally, by working together, the two companies can reduce their costs and risks, and could actually come out ahead if they can drive the costs down before other companies working on their own. From the conference call, I gleaned that engineers are focusing on bringing down the cost of hydrogen storage tanks in the vehicle and reduce the cost of the fuel cell stack.

Additionally, many companies, including Honda, GM, Toyota, Daimler, and others, are working together under the Department of Energy’s H2USA plan to expand subsidies and legislation to foster infrastructure growth.

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