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Honda and GM Team Up to Produce Hydrogen Fuel Cell Systems in the US

Honda Motor Co and General Motors are teaming up produce hydrogen-powered fuel cells in the United States, reports Reuters. The goal is get it all going in 2020 and to produce zero-emissions cars.

A lot of smart people are working to commercialize the effort and to produce ultra-clean vehicles that could run 300 miles before they would need to re-juice. In fact, both the national energy labs as well as the auto companies are laboring to get it done. The paradox is, however, that no one wants to construct hydrogen fueling stations if the fuel cell vehicles that run on hydrogen are not mass produced.

The initial investment by Honda and GM will be $85 million and it will be in a GM plant in Michigan — a move that Reuters says corresponds with a promise by the US president to cut regulations so that more American vehicles can built here.

Honda also says that fuel cell vehicles will make two-thirds of the cars its makes by 2030, Reuters reports. Today they are 5%.

“The United States is where demand for fuel cell vehicles is going to be among the highest so we’ve decided to consolidate our manufacturing operations into one location there,” Honda spokesman Teruhiko Tatebe said at a joint news briefing in Tokyo, according to Reuters. “Both GM and Honda have our respective missions to develop clean energy sources, and we plan to continue these regardless of the political situation.”

The advantages of hydrogen are that it is abundant, renewable and non-polluting. Water vapor is the only byproduct of a fuel cell and hydrogen-fueled vehicles have more twice the range of today’s electric vehicles. But it is difficult to store hydrogen, and it is about 30 percent more expensive to carry the hydrogen via pipelines than to carry natural gas.

But is difficult to store hydrogen — something the U.S. Department of Energy has said is the top priority when it comes to commercializing fuel cell vehicles. There is a further need to develop a pipeline infrastructure that can deliver the product. Pipelines that move hydrogen are said to be 30 percent more expensive than those that carry natural gas.

Fed Ex and Air Products and Chemicals have previously gotten government grants to try and develop the technology.

For its part, Toyota has also said that it expects to produce “tens of thousands per year in the 2020s.” Cost for fuel cell vehicles have dropped by 50 percent since 2006 and 30 percent since 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Meanwhile, fuel cell durability has more doubled since 2005.

While the production of hydrogen results in lost energy, experts say that the use of hydrogen in a fuel cell vehicle provides much more oomph than gasoline. That would help compensate for those efficiency losses during the generation process.

Fuel cells are now being adopted in the area of materials handling equipment that includes fork lifts as well as in the field of telecommunications, say experts. As for the automotive sector, they say that the first fuel cells will also include a battery.

The know-how exists but the cost of creating a new hydrogen-powered auto sector is now prohibitive.

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