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

FCX_Clarity_120
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-FuelCell-MIlestones
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.

Comments

Bob Wallace

E-P, we can't build our way off fossil fuels in less than 20 years with nuclear. And it doesn't matter how cheap you claim nuclear is, the facts simply don't support your assertion.

I'm not going to argue this out with you. You aren't open to information that does not fit your belief system when it comes to nuclear energy.

As for storage, there's always pump-up hydro. Used on a frequent cycle basis (as opposed to long term storage) it would cost about $0.05/kWh or less based on a recent Swiss study.

We've got 80,000 existing dams in the US. At least 10% of them should be convertible. We've got plenty of places to do closed-loop pump-up. Florida is about the only state which doesn't have surface level elevation changes to allow above ground pump-up. Might have to use CAES or HVDC transmission there.

Then there are quite interesting battery technologies. Eos Systems is introducing a $0.10/kWh storage solution. That will make stored off-peak electricity cheaper than gas peaker. Ambri's liquid metal batteries could totally overturn grid electricity prices.

"What you don't want to admit is that the technology is nuclear fission."

No, I fully admit that we could de-carbon our grid with nuclear energy.

It would cost more. We'd create immense amounts of radio active waste. We would increase our risk of a nuclear meltdown. It would take longer to build out the nuclear capacity as opposed to installing renewables. And we'd have to use the US military in order to secure an adequate number of coastal sites for new reactor builds.

Kit P

“we can't build our way off fossil fuels in less than 20 years with nuclear. ”

France did!

“As for storage, there's always pump-up hydro. ”

We now have too many lawyers in the US. It is not an engineering problems.

“We've got 80,000 existing dams in the US ”

This is a huge safety and environmental problem in them many of them do not meet present standards.

“We'd create immense amounts of radio active waste. ”

Not so much really. LCA shows nukes produce the same about of hazardous waste as wind and solar.

“risk of a nuclear meltdown ”

If you pump storage facility fails the 'rushing water' kills people. Four LWR have suffered core damage and no one was hurt. Three of the damaged cores resulted from 'rushing water' that directly killed almost 20,000 people.

“And we'd have to use the US military ...”

What! That is a new one from BS Bob.

Engineer-Poet
E-P is just wrong. The hazard are very real.

Is the Twït agreeing with Bas that nuclear fuel (possibly irradiated fuel inside reactors) is a diversion threat for weapons materials?  Or that the radiation levels in the Fukushima prefecture, which are half or less of those in Ramsar in Iran, pose any threat to health?  Or that the trivial levels of tritium released from Vermont Yankee would hurt anyone even if they drank, cooked and bathed in the affected groundwater for the rest of their life?

The "hazards" above are pure fiction.  They do not exist in reality.

Potentially fatal radiation exposure to people who live around a nuke plant is unique to the nuke segment of the power industry.

And you can walk fast enough to stay ahead of any danger from it.

He is also wrong about the NRC. When the name on the outside of the building changed the same people were reviewing the safety of reactors inside.

But operating by radically different rules, which created the NRC's regulatory ratchet whereas the AEC had none.

The code ASME B31.1, Power Plant Piping, is used for most purposes just as at a coal plant.

Are you claiming that the amount of related paperwork and cost is also the same?

A pressure transmitter for nuke plant and a coal plant are basically the same.

Are you claiming that one can buy them for a similar price?  Substitute a newer design at will?

Maybe E-P thinks that it okay for nuke plants to release significant amounts of radioactive material after an earthquake.

Maybe the Twït thinks that stacks of paper and hordes of regulators are the main thing preventing radiological releases.  Meanwhile, people who get medical treatments with radio-iodine or phosphorus pee freely into municipal sewers, and coal-burning plants freely spew tramp uranium and its still-unstable decay products into the air.  If there are any hazards from low-level radiation, the public is ignoring the biggest threats to concentrate on trivia.

Engineer-Poet
As for storage, there's always pump-up hydro. Used on a frequent cycle basis (as opposed to long term storage) it would cost about $0.05/kWh or less based on a recent Swiss study.

Then what do you use for seasonal storage?  Unicorn farts?

We've got 80,000 existing dams in the US. At least 10% of them should be convertible.

It so happens that I'm passingly familiar with one of the dams you'd probably want to use, given that it has a convenient lower reservoir.

  1. It already has a powerplant.  It is rated at under a megawatt.
  2. It has a storage potential of approximately 10 MWh, limited by the court-ordered level to be maintained in the upper reservoir.
  3. Fish kills and circulation issues in the lower river would also be considerations.

8000 such dams would provide less than 8 GW of power and perhaps 80 GWh of storage.  On the scale of the storage needs of an all-RE grid, this is barely significant.

we can't build our way off fossil fuels in less than 20 years with nuclear.

Sure we could.  Molten-salt reactors could be used as drop-in replacements for coal-fired boilers.  If we geared up to export plants to the rest of the world, we could handle our own conversion in 10 years.

First, however, we'd have to decide to do it.

Kit P

“And you can walk fast enough to stay ahead of any danger from it. ”

That is correct because that is how we design LWR.

“But operating by radically different rules ”

General design criteria (GDC) are almost word for word what was used in 1965 to what we are using for new reactors.

“Are you claiming that the amount of related paperwork and cost is also the same? ”

Yes, think about it. A steam piping failure at coal plant will be just as deadly as a nuke plant. Application of codes and standard are intended from hurting people.

“Are you claiming that one can buy them for a similar price?  Substitute a newer design at will? ”

No, commercial grade have to be qualified for the safety application. Take the same o-ring and put on RCPB valve at a nuke plant or jet engine on an airplane and it will have a lot more paper work than when used used to isolate your hot water heater at home.

One of the new rules in 10CFR50 is called the maintenance rule. You can look it up. A good practice at some nuke plants became a rule for all nuke plants. The concept has been adopted widely by the power industry for coal and wind farms for example.

“medical treatments ”

Regulated by the NRC.

“coal-burning plants freely spew tramp uranium ”

Uranium is not a radiological hazard, it is a toxic heavy metal. The NRC regulates this hazard at facilities that hand uranium via an agreement with EPA & OSHA.

“the public is ignoring the biggest threats to concentrate on trivia. ”

The NRC does not worry about trivia. The public will bring up these issues at meeting and the NRC will try to educate the public. The NRC does not care how many bananas I eat. The NRC regulates that my occupational exposure be less than 5 Rem per year and that anyone living around a nuke plant receive less than 5 mrem year during normal operations. It is not a difficult regulation to meet.

HarveyD

Sooner or latter, we will need a concerted effort to get off Coal, Oil, NG/SG and current nuclear power plants.

Current coal fired power stations phase out should be a priority followed by current nuclear power stations.

NG/SG power stations could be retained as fillers for another 50+ years.

Many more current hydro power plants should be improved by up to 40+% and many more new hydro plants (with pump-up) should be built.

Many more Wind and Solar plants (with storage) should built
A recent single $2B off-shore wind farm in England can replace an $8+B nuclear plant, i.e 4 times cheaper and 4 times faster to build.

ICEVs should be phased out and replaced with BEVs and FCEVs over 20 to 30 years.

Transporting more and more Oil via Rail (+28,000% in the last few years), without the application of proper safety regulations, is disasters in waiting. The recent Lac Mégantic Qc disaster is one example of a cheapo, self regulated, oil transporter, to be avoided. Why transport Oil from Minnesota to St-John NB via rail going through 100+ town and cities while it could be done much more safely by tankers?

One day soon, property and people's safety and environment protection will have to be duly considered.

Engineer-Poet
That is correct because that is how we design LWR.

And HWR.  MSR and LMFBR are the same if not more so.  It's a general property of nuclear reactors without massive design flaws, like graphite-moderated and air- or water-cooling (Windscale and RMBK).

General design criteria (GDC) are almost word for word what was used in 1965 to what we are using for new reactors.

You are really good at talking your way around inconvenient facts, like all the layers of documentation, approvals and hearings that didn't exist in 1965.  It's almost as if... you're a professional evasionist, a PR flack.  A paid troll.

Are you claiming that the amount of related paperwork and cost is also the same?
Yes, think about it.

Anybody who's thought about it knows the answer is "no".  There's no equivalence in paperwork between a part whose every production step must be documented vs. one that must only be inspected and tested.

commercial grade have to be qualified for the safety application.

If the criteria require documentation of the production process, commercial grade cannot be certified period.  If the documentation wasn't done at the time of manufacture, there's no way to do it afterward.

Uranium is not a radiological hazard

Exactly!  Neither are its decay products.  But coal plants emit them at levels that would call for shutting down a nuclear plant.  There's no public-health case for doing this, it's pure prejudice against nuclear power.

The NRC does not worry about trivia.

The NRC went through all kinds of rigamarole about a release of tritium from Vermont Yankee which was less than the amount found in a luminescent EXIT sign.  A fire in a building using such signs would release far more tritium into the environment than VY did.  This proves that the NRC does not merely worry about trivia, it is obsessed with it.

Roger Pham

Many good points, E-P.
I think that your idea of using molten-salt reactor to replace coal burners in existing coal-fired power plants is a practical idea that can be implement quickly and inexpensively. The molten-salt reactors are safer and can be factory built and shipped out, at much lower cost and at much more rapid rate than on-site existing nuclear plant designs that are hugely expensive and time-consuming due to NRC burdensome regulations.

Perhaps you would so kindly as to elaborate further as to how to bring about such a change (steps required) in current existing technical, socio-political and regulatory environment, in order to eliminate CO2-intensive and polluting coal combustion.

Engineer-Poet
Perhaps you would so kindly as to elaborate further as to how to bring about such a change (steps required) in current existing technical, socio-political and regulatory environment, in order to eliminate CO2-intensive and polluting coal combustion.

And perhaps I wouldn't, as it would require a book.

Roger Pham

OK, E-P, please get started on your book.

Kit P

"But coal plants emit them at levels that would call for shutting down a nuclear plant."

Of course that is not true.

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