GM and Honda ally to drive fuel cells into the mainstream

GM and Honda have agreed to work together on a concerted push to bring affordable hydrogen-fuel cell vehicles to market before the end of the decade.

The two companies, which together boast 1,200 fuel cell-related patents, yesterday signed a "definitive master agreement" to co-develop fuel cell systems and hydrogen storage technologies.

By exchanging expertise, economies of scale and combining sourcing strategies for parts and materials, they intend to make fuel cell vehicles more affordable.

"We are convinced this is the best way to develop this important technology, which has the potential to help reduce the dependence on petroleum and establish sustainable mobility," said Dan Akerson, GM chairman and chief executive.

Fuel cell vehicles generate power from a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen stored in the fuel stack and emit only water vapor. But the need to store hydrogen in specialist carbon fiber tanks and use platinum as a catalyst means costs for the technology have remained high.

However, cost concerns have not stopped several leading automotive firms investing heavily in developing the technology.

Honda has already delivered 85 of its FCX Fuel Cell vehicles and its successor, the FCX Clarity, which was named World Green Car in 2009. It plans to launch a follow-up in the U.S. and Japan in 2015, with a European roll-out expected soon after. Meanwhile, GM's Project Driveway program has accumulated nearly 3 million miles of real-world driving in a fleet of 119 hydrogen-powered vehicles since 2007.

Honda FCX Clarity image by Lykovata via Shutterstock.com.

Next page: Other automakers exploring fuel cell vehicles