Two of the automakers most committed to a hydrogen fuel cell future have agreed to work together on the technology. General Motors Co., producer of about a half-dozen concept and production fuel cell vehicles, said last week that it will team up with Honda Motor Co., which currently offers a fuel cell car.
"This combines two of the biggest programs," David Hurst, senior analyst for Navigant Research, told us. "But there is significant science yet to be done, and it can be costly. This allows them to share the cost of some of that fundamental research."
The two automakers agreed to split the research and man hours required to develop the technology. The agreement could give them an edge on other automakers with fuel cell programs in the works, including Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, and Hyundai.
Click the image below for a slideshow on GM and Honda efforts in this field.
GM's Hy-Wire concept car combined hydrogen fuel cells with drive-by-wire technology. (Source: Wikipedia)
GM built its first fuel cell concept vehicle, the Electrovan, in 1966. It has since built the HydroGen1 (2001), AUTOnomy (2002), Hy-Wire (2003), Chevy Sequel (2005), and Chevy Equinox Fuel Cell concept vehicle (2007).
Honda marketed the FCX fuel cell vehicle in 2002 and rolled out versions of the FCX Clarity, a low-volume production fuel cell car, in 2008 and 2011.
Even with the Honda-GM announcement, industry analysts expect the number of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on the road to remain miniscule over the next few years. A Navigant report this spring (registration required) predicts that annual US sales of such vehicles will reach about 3,700 by 2020, compared with 130,000 for battery-electric vehicles.
Research efforts are still mostly targeting the cost of fuel cells. "At the moment, fuel cells are still using platinum as one of the main catalysts," Hurst said. "Researchers are trying to figure out how to reduce the use of platinum, because it's so costly." Most automakers are hoping to cut the cost of fuel cell vehicles to below $50,000.
"We expect 2015 to be the first year when we'll see automakers dipping a toe in the fuel cell retail environment," he said. "But even then, it's going to be several years before we see any real production numbers."
I don't think we need to worry about anti-trust violations, Al. At least not yet. This reminds me of the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium, which was formed by GM, Ford and Chrysler in about 1990. It was never a problem, as far as I know.
Although we're going to see a few a few production vehicles by 2015, we're a long way from big volumes, Rob. By 2020, we're expecteing 3,700 fuel cell vehicles in the U.S., which is about two-hundredths of one percent.
Interesting development, Chuck. Any insights on whether this is unusual or if there are synergies here that make sense? I would think there would be a fundamental conflict in working together or at least a worry that you might be helping a main competitor.
Some cars are more reliable than others, but even the vehicles at the bottom of this year’s Consumer Reports reliability survey are vastly better than those of 20 years ago in the key areas of powertrain and hardware, experts said this week.
As it does every year, Consumers Union recently surveyed its members on the reliability of their vehicles. This year, it collected data on approximately 1.1 million cars and trucks, categorizing the members’ likes and dislikes, not only of their vehicles, but of the vehicle sub-systems, as well.
A few weeks ago, Ford Motor Co. quietly announced that it was rolling out a new wrinkle to the powerful safety feature called stability control, adding even more lifesaving potential to a technology that has already been very successful.
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