Rumor: Honda, General Motors To Work Together on New Fuel Cell Production Facility In Attempt To Lower Costs

Aside from the challenges of building an entirely new hydrogen filling station infrastructure, one of the biggest challenges facing the mass marketability of hydrogen fuel cell cars today is the sheer cost of building the complex fuel cell stack at the heart of every hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. While recent advances in hydrogen fuel cell stack technology have reduced the cost of building a hydrogen fuel cell stack by several orders of magnitude compared to fuel cells made ten years ago, making hydrogen fuel cell stacks is still a complex and costly business.

The partnership will see both Honda and GM work on reducing the cost of H2 fuel cells.

The partnership will see both Honda and GM work on reducing the cost of H2 fuel cells.

Take the 2016 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell sedan, for example. Despite being Toyota’s first production hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the 100 kilowatt fuel cell stack at the heart of every Toyota Mirai is — just like the car itself — painstakingly constructed by hand costing Toyota an estimated $50,000 for each and every fuel cell made. And for now, that means a massive loss on each and every Mirai that rolls off the production line. Until that cost drops, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles won’t be profitable for automakers.

Faced with high production costs, automakers are doing what they always do when faced with a new, expensive vehicle technology: collaborate with other automakers in an attempt to bring down costs to a level that is mutually beneficial to both firms.

The Honda Clarity is Honda's first production fuel cell vehicle, but costs need to come down for there to be more.

The Honda Clarity is Honda’s first production fuel cell vehicle, but costs need to come down for there to be more.

And that, claims The Asahi Shimbun (via Autobloggreen) is exactly what Honda and General Motors are about to do when it comes to the production of hydrogen fuel cell stacks. Quoting an anonymous senior official at Honda, the newspaper says both companies plan to work together on a joint factory where hydrogen fuel cell stacks will be produced for use in both Honda and GM-brand vehicles.

Due to come online some time “in the 2020s,” the factory would leverage economies of scale and experience from both automakers to produce energy-dense, highly efficient hydrogen fuel cell stacks that will cost far less to produce than the hydrogen fuel cell stacks found in the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Tucson FCV — the only two commercially-available hydrogen fuel cell cars on sale in the world today.

Later this year, Honda will be the third automaker to enter the hydrogen vehicle marketplace with the Clarity Fuel Cell Sedan, a car designed from the ground up to maximize efficiency and vehicle range without compromising interior space. But while Honda will begin to roll out limited-numbers of the Clarity Fuel Cell in March this year, production costs for its first production fuel cell car are expected to be similarly high to the Mirai.

At this point, we should probably point out that collaboration on hydrogen fuel cell cars and fuel cell stacks isn’t exactly new. Indeed, most of the major automakers in the world have already paired up in partnerships which see hydrogen fuel cell vehicles researched and developed in mutually-beneficial circumstances. Ford for example, has partnered with both Daimler and Nissan on sharing fuel cell technology, while Toyota has paired up with BMW.

While neither Honda nor GM have yet confirmed their existing hydrogen fuel cell partnership extends to the building of a joint fuel cell production facility, we’d place this one as certainly plausible. While GM has focused on electrified vehicles in recent years, it has a long-standing hydrogen fuel cell development program and, like most automakers, has been quietly working on the technology alongside electric vehicles to ensure that it can keep up with its competitors in case a hydrogen fuel cell breakthrough occurs.



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  • Matt Beard

    I have often thought that if Elon Musk were an evil genius, he could offer to swap any FCV owner’s car for a brand-new Model S or Model X. Sure it would cost Musk a few million.. but every FCV on the market currently costs it’s manufacturer a packet and they are doing it to prime the pumps. If owners are happily swapping them for Teslas then the roads will fill up with EVs even faster (slightly) and very few customers will be likely to stick with their FCV!

    • Joe Viocoe

      I think it would be better if Elon just built a battery Swap Station next door to every H2 station built.

  • Farmer_Dave

    I doubt that GM would be so fuelish.

  • The only way for an oil company to stay in business after the peak oil era is to produce, store, and distribute hydrogen.
    Oil companies investors are probably GM investors too 😉

    • Joseph Dubeau

      You make all the hydrogen you need from Wind and solar.

      • Joe Viocoe

        You could churn all the butter you’ll ever need too…. but why waste your energy that could be put to so many more productive, and efficient uses?

        • Joseph Dubeau

          Reducing CO2 emissions is not a waste.

          • Joe Viocoe

            When the same effort could reduce CO2 emissions by 3 or more times… yes, it is a waste.

            It is type of greenwashing that puts things into black and white. We wind up spinning wheels, going down unsustainable paths, by looking at it like that.
            The Ethanol debacle was the same way… you could equally argue, “it reduced emissions”. But at what cost, and kept real change from happening.

          • Joseph Dubeau

            Joe, they already have Hydrogen Fuel station powered by Wind in the U.K.
            It’s not a waste. Wind is free. EV are as only as clean as the grid.
            The grid gets most of it’s power from FF. FF like NG.

          • I believe that hydrogen could only make sense if we can produce it at home with an electolyzer by renewables.
            Otherwise instead of refuelling on a gas station we still have to fill up the tanks with hydrogen on the same station by the same companies and probably more expensive than gas.

          • Joseph Dubeau

            The problem (hydrogen) with making it at home is the high pressure.
            Making methanol from renewable is doable.

            “we still have to fill up the tanks with hydrogen on the same station by the same companies” They don’t seem to care.
            We don’t see them building any stations.

          • Joe Viocoe

            The percentage of Hydrogen from Natural Gas is a MUCH higher percentage… and is likely to remain high, since consumers have little ability to change this. The electric grid is much more diversified by region and by consumer choice. And many have already chosen solar.

            The percentage of EVs on solar power, are substantially larger than any FCV running on wind.

            And yes, if you have a resource that is dedicated to an inefficient process, will a more efficient use for that resource is available… IT IS A WASTE. You cannot just call the Wind Resource as a given, and just call it free.