In revealing the alliance with GM, Honda president Takanobu Ito said, "Among all zero-CO2 emission technologies, fuel-cell electric vehicles have a definitive advantage with range and refueling time that is as good as conventional gasoline cars."
Similarly, GM CEO Dan Akerson said in his statement, "We are convinced this is the best way to develop this important technology." Akerson added that such vehicles can help curb petroleum dependence and underpin sustainable mobility.
The two companies also made it clear that they will work together by jointly lobbying for an expanded network of hydrogen fuel stations. Those that exist in the United States are currently clustered mainly in California.
Shared technologies with EVs
Another key element encouraging auto companies to take a second look at fuel-cell cars is that some of the technologies already developed for their battery-electric cars can be shared with fuel-cell cars. Industry experts point out that fuel-cell vehicles share similar electric motors to power the wheels, brakes that capture power when stopping, software, and related electronics.
GM and Honda are both considered pioneers in fuel-cell technology, armed with a large number of patents in the field. However, their competitors have already jumped on the fuel-cell bandwagon earlier this year. Toyota Motor Corp. and BMW AG in January set up a fuel-cell production alliance. Daimler AG, Ford Motor Co., and Nissan Motor Co. also in January said they would jointly develop a line of affordable fuel-cell electric cars for sale as early as 2017.
GM and Honda pointed out that the development of a common system for fuel-cell vehicles is critical because the cost of development remains too high. It's expensive partly because fuel-cell stacks require platinum. On-board storage of gaseous hydrogen -- which requires carbon fiber storage tanks -- is also complex.
The alliance between the largest US automaker and Honda includes: exchanging engineers, joint use of research facilities, shared sourcing of parts and materials, and "a complete sharing of all our respective intellectual properties on the subject," according to the two companies. Despite their stated goal to make fuel-cell cars more affordable, they declined to elaborate either on the expected price for fuel-cell vehicles or the amount of their investment.