In July 2013, Honda and General Motors announced a master collaboration agreement that established the co-development arrangement for a next-generation fuel cell system and hydrogen storage technologies. The companies integrated their development teams and are sharing intellectual property in a “one company” effort to create a more affordable commercial solution for fuel cell and hydrogen storage systems.
On January 30, 2017, the two automakers announced the establishment a manufacturing joint venture to mass-produce an advanced hydrogen fuel cell system for future products from each company. Fuel Cell System Manufacturing, LLC will operate within GM’s existing battery pack manufacturing facility site in Brownstown Township, Michigan, south of Detroit. Mass production of fuel cell systems is expected to begin around 2020 and create nearly 100 new jobs. The companies are investing $85 million total in the joint venture.
This venture leverages a single, jointly developed design that will be produced in a jointly owned manufacturing company capable of scaling fuel cell production to high volume. This enables common development investment, increased scale economies, shared sourcing from common suppliers, and faster learning cycles — all with the combined resources of two fuel cell industry leaders, GM says.
Environmentally, a fuel cell’s only tailpipe emission is water vapor, which can be captured and reused in several applications, such as fire suppression on aircraft. The Platinum catalyst, which is being reduced by orders of magnitude, is helping bring the cost of fuel cells closer to other alternative propulsion systems. The packaging size continues to improve, but the next- generation system is small enough that the automakers prefer to bias the design toward lower cost rather than further reductions to the package size.
Together, Honda and GM have 2,200 fuel cell-related patents, which is more than any other automaker. Sharing intellectual property and the costs of the first-ever joint venture fuel cell manufacturing operation to focus on mass production will allow both companies to realize significant efficiencies while driving down cost and improving the value of fuel cell technology for customers, according to the automakers.