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GM, Honda to collaborate on next-generation fuel cell technologies; targeting commercial feasibility in 2020 time frame

2011 Honda FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle. Click to enlarge.

In New York, General Motors and Honda announced a long-term, definitive master agreement to co-develop next-generation fuel cell system and hydrogen storage technologies, aiming for the 2020 time frame. (Earlier post.) The collaboration expects to succeed by sharing expertise, economies of scale and common sourcing strategies.

GM and Honda plan to work together with stakeholders to further advance hydrogen refueling infrastructure, which is critical for the long-term viability and consumer acceptance of fuel cell vehicles.

GM’s hydrogen fuel cell product milestones. Click to enlarge.

In January, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., signed a three-way agreement for the joint development of a common fuel cell system to speed up availability of the technology and significantly reduce investment costs. (Earlier post.)

The goal of that collaboration is to develop jointly a common fuel cell electric vehicle system while reducing investment costs associated with the engineering of the technology. The strategy is to maximize design commonality, leverage volume and derive efficiencies through economies of scale to help to launch mass-market FCEVs as early as 2017.

GM and Honda are both leaders in fuel cell technology, with longstanding fuel cell research and development programs. According to the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index, GM and Honda rank Nº 1 and Nº 2, respectively, in total fuel cell patents filed between 2002 and 2012, with more than 1,200 between them.

This collaboration builds upon Honda and GM’s strengths as leaders in hydrogen fuel cell technology. 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.

—Dan Akerson, GM chairman and CEO

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. Honda and GM are eager to accelerate the market penetration of this ultimate clean mobility technology, and I am excited to form this collaboration to fuse our leading fuel cell technologies and create an advanced system that will be both more capable and more affordable.

—Takanobu Ito, president & CEO of Honda Motor Co. Ltd.

GM’s Project Driveway program, launched in 2007, has accumulated nearly 3 million miles of real-world driving in a fleet of 119 hydrogen-powered vehicles, more than any other automaker. (Earlier post.)

Honda began leasing of the Honda FCX in 2002 and has deployed 85 units in the US and Japan, including its successor, the FCX Clarity. (Earlier post.) Honda has delivered these vehicles to the hands of customers in the US and collected valuable data concerning real-world use of fuel cell electric vehicles.

As already announced, Honda plans to launch the successor of FCX Clarity in Japan and the United States in 2015, and then in Europe. GM will announce its fuel cell production plans at a later date.

Fuel cell vehicles can have up to 400 miles driving range, can be refueled in as little as three minutes, and the propulsion technology can be used on small, medium, and large vehicles, the partners noted.

Toyota, which has put more than 5 million hybrid vehicles on the road around the world since 1997, has also set hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as a key research and development priority for the company. The company has committed to introducing a hydrogen fuel cell sedan in the US by 2015. Toyota’s Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle – Advanced (FCHV-adv), part of a fleet of 100 in a nationwide demonstration program, was recently on-site at the Aspen Ideas Festival.



Oops, for forty years, the mass marketing of fuel cell vehicles is only five(to 7) years away and GM will again need LOTS of taxpayer grants to serve the public.

Bob Wallace

"Fuel cell vehicles can have up to 400 miles driving range, can be refueled in as little as three minutes, and the propulsion technology can be used on small, medium, and large vehicles, the partners noted."

That's nice. But if we get affordable 200 mile EVs that can recharge in less than 20 minutes the cost of fuel for FCEVs will make them non-starters.

I'm betting on 200 mile range for well under $30k in less than seven years.


EV market introduction will be delayed by progress on ICE and Fuel Cell vehicles market introduction will delayed by progress on batteries...so don't count too fast on it...

Roger Pham

>>>>"The company [Toyota] has committed to introducing a hydrogen fuel cell sedan in the US by 2015."

So, FCV's will be around by 2015, which is 2 years away!

H2 refill station is very quick and simple to set up. I've calculated before that only about 500 stations will be needed for the entire continental USA to have a station within 7-10 mile driving distance in urban aeras and a station within 30 miles on cross-country highways, at the cost of half a billion dollars or much less. Yearly sales of petroleum is several hundred billions dollars, so the cost of H2 filling stations will be a very small percentage of over fuel expenditure yearly, yet the stations will last over many decades.

FCV's have advantages over BEV's including the durability of the fuel tank and FC stacks, without the heat-related and calendar life degradation of batteries. In hot areas like Arizona or New Mexico, the Leaf's batteries have deteriorated much faster than expected. Batteries do not like hot climates. Nor cold climates good for batteries, plus FCV can take advantage of the waste heat.

Fast charging stations will be expensive to build, yet not very profitable because people will recharge mostly at home and only rarely use the station, thus hard to recoup the investment cost due to low volume of use. I predict that few companies would venture to build fast charging stations in sufficient location. Plus, fast charging is hard on batteries and make 'em wear out faster than slow charge.

H2 stations will receive continous business because it is costly to setup for H2 fillup at home, and will payoff within one year of service. The rest of the time will be pure profits.


The fuel for EVs will always be way less expensive and will often be produced from solar cells. Which in my estimatation is the real problem with EV adoption. QWe can not allow consumers off the tether. Monthly bills are part of what make employees easily manipulable. That desparate dependence that the surfs have on the corporate masters is the best part of being the corporate master. How else will we be able to continue taking the benefits of other peoples labor. We must not make them free.

Roger Pham

Fuel for EV's will be less than H2, however, the batteries will cost a lot more than H2 tank per unit of kWh energy over the life time of the storage device. Calculate the electricity cost AND the depreciation cost of the battery and you will find that H2 may be cheaper per unit of kWh to the wheel.


I expect the Toyota vehicle to be something akin to the Clarity rather than a mass market vehicle for public sale. Would you say FCVs have been around since 2002? They're not really going to be around in 2015.


You're comparing battery tech in a a Leaf from 2010 with Fuel Cell tech from 2015-2020. You're also ignoring that Tesla is building hundreds of fast charging stations by themselves. I just did a search and there are 16 level 2 stations within a 10 mile radius of my house in the North Atlanta suburbs.
I drive from Atlanta to Knoxville because my daughter is going to UT and there are 2 DC fast chargers in Chattanooga right now. All of this exists today, in 2010 and is growing rapidly.
I think FCV's will find their niche in home applications but I don't see them competing with EV's for the Light Duty vehicles. EV's already have Possibly for long haul trucking, but even there, they would have to show a TCO compared to NG trucking.
I'm not hating on FCVs...I just don't see a realistic path forward in LDV's.


LOL Ok, I think I meant "all of this exists today, in 2013..." Got a little hung up on 2010 there for a minute.

Roger Pham

Tesla's charging stations are subsidized by buyers of Tesla, who are paying a premium of the luxurious and excellent brand. Fast charging stations is not a viable self-supporting business model, because the moment the customer is charged with appropriate fee to recoup the cost of the station, people will start charging at home and bypass the charging stations.


You are completely speculating here. Please cite the exact cost for both the DC Fast Charging stations and the H2 stations along with the usage patterns and the number of vehicles that will support them.

Can't be done because....you're just giving your opinion like everyone else.


The main problem with a really big roll out of BEV vehicles is that most folk other than early adopters may not be willing to accept the range limitations of them.

Now batteries may fall in price so fast and increase in capacity so much that they won't have to, but I don't know if they will or not.

I don't really think that anyone else does either, as getting to the point where they are truly comparable to ICE would need around twice the Tesla's battery capacity, whilst at the same time costs drop so much that that is available at an 'everyman' price.

Now maybe folk will accept significant compromises on this ICE-comparable performance, but we don't know that either.

PHEVs are a safer bet, but we also know that we can do ICE-comparable performance, and even the costs of fuel cells to reach that at around ICE prices need far less in the way of breakthroughs to get there than batteries.

Personally I would prefer an electric highway for on the move charging than either, but fuel cells are a fairly safe bet to provide ICE comparable performance at good cost.

What I do think is daft are notions that fuel cells are so hopeless that they should be abandoned, or that it is money wasted and infrastructure costs for them are impossibly huge.

That is simply symptomatic of a complete inability to add up.

So let a hundred flowers bloom, and a thousand schools of thought contend, I say.

Plenty of time to chop the heads off of some of the worst performing ones later! ;-)

Fast charging stations will be expensive to build, yet not very profitable because people will recharge mostly at home and only rarely use the station, thus hard to recoup the investment cost due to low volume of use.

If people need a fast charge, they NEED a fast charge.  These chargers will be in high-traffic areas like tollway oases, and can bill enough of a premium to be profitable.  They can be subsidized by charge network subscription fees, where people pay a bit just to have the stations there against need.

Normal charging can be done at home, at work, etc.  This quotidian use lends itself to dynamic charging and V2G use, which pays for itself and can also subsidize some fast-chargers.



I am seeing that the "range limitations" are less and less of a concern as people get used to EVs. We've got a Ford Focus EV and four Leafs at our office now and once people got used to the idea of them, we have lots of people considering them. Even some of the muscle-heads that drive Mustangs today. From watching them talk and interact as they get rides in the cars, I'm seeing that about 100 to 150 mile range will be the tipping point for many of them, so I think your estimate of "twice Tesla's battery capacity" is way off base.

They LOVE the idea that they can just plug in at home and not deal with gas stations anymore. They view it more like plugging in your cell phone when you get home.

Granted, this is a limited sample because most of our employees make good money and live in the suburbs where they have their own homes to plug in. But that's still a sizable population here in the US to give EV's a BIG head start between now and 2015-2020.

Anyway, how you doing and how's the weather in the UK? I'm heading over there next week. Atlanta is doing it's best imitation of a tropical rain forest so the rain can't be any worse. LOL

Roger Pham

Good point, E-P, regarding membership or subscription fee for the use of fast charging station in case of emergency. This is a better business model than just fee-for-service at the point of sevice.

Both PEV and FCV can be made to work satisfactorily and complementary to one another, similar to diesel and gasoline vehicles. It's important for the consumers to have choices that will suit their driving and living style.


My comment on twice Tesla's battery was not what I thought people would find acceptable, but simply that that would be the size needed to give truly comparable performance and range to ICE.

I simply don't know what the majority of people will find acceptable, as that anyway depends partly on what the alternatives are.

If the choice is that or very expensive petrol, then maybe, although there is currently a lot of subsidies, which incidentally I agree with, in the costs of buying and running a battery car.
For instance here in Europe if they caught on they would in one way or another have to pay the ~60% of the pump price of fuel which is tax.

If the choice was a battery car with some range limitations, or a fuel cell car without, then again it is unclear what the choice would be.

I am in fact happy with either.

We are due some sunshine by the end of the week, so you may be lucky!

Watch out for the heat though, as you are unaccustomed to the scorching 23C that temperatures are expected to reach by Saturday!

Is this business or pleasure, and will this be the first visit?


A Fuel cell is the most obvious range extender for BEV's.
I expect there will be both in many cars.
Batteries for the first 100 miles, and H2 in case you need more.
the price of electric driving depends a lot on the number of miles you drive before you dispose of your battery.
Most rides are short, so the first 50 miles you drive electric are very economical. If you want a battery to last for 500 miles, then it will be very expensive, while most of this range you will hardly use. It makes a lot of sence to drive BEV for short ranges, and use H2 for more.


Commercialization success:
follow Tesla's lead - high-end barely affordable vehicles that will appeal to the naturally-moneyed early-adopters, the ones we all fantasize about but openly hate - because as prices go down we will buy them at a higher price comparable to a gas vehicle than if they started cheap - its the not-Walmart effect (or Tesla effect);
continue to follow Tesla's lead by putting free or near-free fill-up stations at strategic locations throughout north america (perhaps coordinate with Tesla) (subsidized by car purchase);
continue and beat Tesla by offering 7-year+ full maintenance lease programs;
go beyond Tesla by making home installation fuel-up systems optional at car purchase, including contractor-install cost-reductions in implementing it in tandem with your existing solar, gas, grid, or alternative home energy system.
That's it - that's how fuel cell cars will be 5% by 2025 and 25% by 2035.

A Fuel cell is the most obvious range extender for BEV's.

Is it?  The range extender is useless if you can't find fuel for it when running at extended range.  For at least the next couple of decades, you're going to want something that runs on the most common fuel(s) available (even if they aren't cheap).  Also, if you have a bulky battery you're going to want a dense fuel.  That's going to be petroleum liquids and alcohols, not H2.

The range extender may still be a fuel cell, but probably an SOFC burning carbon/hydrogen fuels rather than a PEM FC.


Hey Dave,

LOL I'd LOVE to have 23C temps for a high!!! :-) I'm over there for business because our headquarters is in Sutton but I'll take a day or two to run around. I've been there many times (nearly 2 million miles in international travel), but I still love London.

I really am a fuel cell fan, and even own part of a startup that is trying to use them in stationary spplications. But I just can't get my head around them in light duty vehicle applications. I could be wrong...we'll see. Hey, most of us have been on here and ABG for at least 5-10 years...I'm sure most of us will be on here in 2018 saying "I told you so" or denying what we said back in 2013 LOL

Bob Wallace

" to give truly comparable performance and range to ICE."

Davemart - How often do you fill up your gas tank and then drive until it's empty without stopping? 580 miles without a break? (Prius with a full tank.) Most people would take a couple of breaks.

And do remember, most people don't take long trips very often. A few minutes extra added to long trips in exchange for saving $1,000 to $2,000 per year? Most will gladly accept that.

"EV market introduction will be delayed by progress on ICE"

Treehugger - I doubt that. Battery research and development will speed ahead. In fact, if battery researchers see more efficient ICEVs potentially cutting into sales they are likely to work even faster.

There are major fortunes to be made by whomever delivers the affordable longer range batteries we need. These parties are competing against each other to get to market first and gain a toehold. The race is truly on....

Account Deleted

It is good to see that most here believe we should keep all options open for future transportation. The one thing both the Tesla Model S and the Chevy Volt demonstrated was that we could have BEV or EREV automobiles that were just as good as any ICE powered automobile.
We could see breakthroughs in battery tech soon, possibly using metal-air, however, even these super batteries must have very low costs (<$100/KWH) and address the long recharge times, particularly for BEV which realistically should have batteries that are larger than 100 KWH to give a 400 mile+ range.
After following fuel cell tech for years, it has a definite place in distributed electric power generation, using either SOFC or PEM, particularly if cogeneration of heat or hot water is included. Transportation use may still be questionable even if the cost of the fuel cell is dramatically reduced. The balance of plant costs for fuel cells (fuel storage, etc) are still great. However, for buses and large trucks (Class 7 or 8, e.g. Vision Motors), possibly even SUV, fuel cells may be a good fit. In addition, the number of H2 stations required would not be as great. Did you know that today only California and South Carolina (for BMW) have H2 stations - check out the DOE alternative fuel maps they are quite interesting.


The question is not just how you or I use our cars, but what the general usage pattern is.
In the US the average miles per year is around 12,000, but that covers a huge range of variation.
The older the car, the less miles it does on average.

So for a brand new car the average is around 15,000 miles, and for an old banger around 7,000.

For old cars which are used as shopping trolleys it is difficult in strict financial terms to justify the increment for batteries, as the miles they are doing simply do not amortise them.
They are basically going to use whatever is available from the existing fleet.

People who buy new cars split into two main categories, older folk who can afford it and don't want the hassle of risking breakdowns, who tend to also be low mileage drivers, and people in the prime of life who typically do a lot of miles, often in the 30,000 a year bracket, and absolutely must be able to do this reliably.

Those folk very often need to make regular long journeys.
Non ICE alternatives are BEVs with very large batteries, preferably well above even the 85kwh Tesla, PHEVs which are not particularly economic on long runs as they are lugging a heavy battery etc, and fuel cell cars.

My own view is that there is not one clear winner, and at least until the technologies mature we will have a variety of alternatives which will suit different people and countries.

That is why France has got a big emphasis on BEV cars, as nuclear is ideally suited to charge them, whilst Germany which is going for renewables big time has the emphasis on fuel cells, which are a far better fit for renewables than batteries.

To some degree countries with high solar irradiation are in a different position to northerly Germany, as at least theoretically solar panels on the roof might do the job.

In spite of what solar advocates say though, this alternative is almost non-existent at the moment, and they elide that their solar panels actually feed into the grid, and it is the grid which charges their car overnight.

This is disingenuous, as it lightly skips over the big issue with renewables, getting power when you actually need it.

At considerable additional expense you might be able to store the electricity for use at night, but more difficult is annular variation, as even at the latitude of Phoenix the sun in winter is only about a third as powerful on a daily basis per square metre as in the height of summer.

There are all sorts of work arounds, but even in hot places the need to store power for a grid using a lot of renewables mean that in practise hydrogen plays a big part.


30,000 miles a year?  100 miles per day, 300 days a year?

That is 4.5 times the median daily commute, and I'd wager that it's at least 2 standard deviations above the mean.  Maybe 3.  In other words, those drivers are a niche rather than the mainstream and the bulk of the populace will be served quite well with vehicles designed to ignore the needs of the 30k mi/yr set.


Plenty of business cars do 30,000 a year.
That includes people like taxi drivers, sales reps and small business owners as well as folk with a long commute.

Here in the UK the papers are full of cars three years old with 90k on the clock.
I am sure the same applies to the US.

The notion that they are doing a standard 100 miles a day is also not the case.

A lot of business owners have regular weekly trips for their business of several hundred miles, to see suppliers and so on.

Even more prevalent are 3 year old cars with 60 or 70k on the clock.

Some people buy new cars simply because they can.
Many buy new because they travel a lot of miles and must have something reliable to do it in.

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