GM, Honda to jointly develop hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles by 2020

DETROIT Tue Jul 2, 2013 10:29am EDT

The U.S. flag flies at the Burt GM auto dealer in Denver in this June 1, 2009 file photo. RTEUTERS/Rick Wilking

The U.S. flag flies at the Burt GM auto dealer in Denver in this June 1, 2009 file photo. RTEUTERS/Rick Wilking

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DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co and Honda Motor Co will jointly develop hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles over the next seven years, the latest alliance in an industry-wide effort to cut the technology's costs and meet stricter global emissions rules.

The two automakers, which announced their partnership on Tuesday, will also develop a refueling infrastructure that will be crucial for consumer acceptance and the long-term viability of fuel-cell vehicles.

Fuel-cell vehicles are getting renewed attention this year as global automakers race to meet emissions limits in China, Europe and the United States that are set to get tougher over the next 12 years.

GM and Honda said they will build on each other's technology and share suppliers to lower the cost of fuel-cell vehicles, which are more expensive to build than electric cars.

"At GM, we believe in hydrogen fuel cell technology as one of several possible alternatives to more traditional forms of propulsion, to help reduce petroleum dependence," GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky said in his prepared remarks ahead of a press conference in New York.

"However, the cost of such technology has not come down as far as it must to become more commercially viable," he added.

Fuel-cell cars use a "stack" of cells that combine hydrogen with oxygen in the air to generate electricity. Their only emission is water vapor. They can run five times longer than electric cars, and it takes just minutes to fill the tank with hydrogen, compared with eight hours or so to recharge a battery.

There are just two fuel-cell vehicles available in the U.S. market the Honda FCX Clarity and the Mercedes-Benz F-Cell. Honda plans to launch the successor of the FCX in Japan and the United States in 2015.

One barrier to their widespread adoption is the high cost of the platinum needed to kick-start the chemical reaction within the fuel cell. The platinum alone adds thousands of dollars in costs to each vehicle.

Another issue is the lack of hydrogen stations in the United States, which cost $1 million or more to build. On its website, the U.S. Department of Energy lists 10 public hydrogen stations, mostly in southern California.

As part of the collaboration, GM and Honda said they would work with local governments and others to expand the network of hydrogen stations.

Global automakers have formed a number of tie-ups to lower the costs of fuel-cell development. In January, Toyota Motor Corp and BMW AG outlined plans to launch fuel-cell vehicles around 2020.

That same month, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co announced a separate tie up to build fuel-cell vehicles within five years.

The partnerships come after the failure of electric cars to meet sales expectations, despite heavy subsidies worldwide. And while hybrids have gained ground, more is needed to meet the new emissions targets.

(Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

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Comments (1)
For the last fifty years we have been told by hydrogen fuel advocates and the auto companies that hydrogen fuelled cars were five or six years away. The truth is that they will not be.

At the same time there is a now a move towards replacing coal used for power generation and gasoline fuel with natural gas, but there are also very serious consequences involved in doing so that have recently been confirmed. According to a recent report in Nature News, researchers, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Methane leaking from fields could be offsetting much of the potential climate benefit of the ongoing shift from coal- to gas-fired plants for electricity generation.

There is ample scientific research that confirms the very low efficiency of burning natural gas as an automotive fuel or for generating electricity. Research in the mid 1960s that confirmed the fact that by turning natural gas into NH3 (ammonia) and the CO2 captured in the process into urea and char, we can eliminate the emissions and increase the efficiency by 100%. We have had the technology to eliminate virtually all emissions for 50 years or more. It would cost half what it does now to use the existing gas supplies in this way, and a small fraction, likely less than 10% of the cost of using hydrogen directly.

The U.S. President moves on regulating emissions from existing and new coal-fired power plants, while the Harper government in Canada recently exempted existing plants from new limits for fifty years, while at the same time increasing the emissions limits almost 20%. The regulations include broad transitional exemptions for existing coal-fired power plants that defined the end of the useful life had been set to 45 years in the initial outline of the rules, but have been changed to 50 in the latest version. The new rules are “at the high end” of the 360 to 425 tonne per gigawatt hour range considered.

The Nov. 2012 IEEE report, called the U.S. “Dual Fuel Strategy: An Energy Transition plan”, was based on a 1982 IEEE report, “An ammonia energy vector for the hydrogen economy” IJHE, Jan. 1982, 7 (4), pg. 355-359, which was based on a 1967 study by Prof. Leon Green, Jr., writing in Science magazine, called “Energy needs versus environmental pollution: A reconciliation?”, Science, vol. 156, pp.1448 -1450 1967.
Green energy generation in which the fossil fuels are not burned directly but serve as raw materials for the synthesis of a clean fuel. . . This clean fuel is ammonia. . . .”

Hydrogen fuel stations will cost $1 Million each and there is not an infrastructure to deliver it. Ammonia fuel stations will cost $50,000 and according to the U.S. DOE, over 80% of the vehicles in the U.S. that are located in the 100 largest cities could be fuelled using the existing ammonia fertilizer infrastructure if it was simply used for throughput of fuel instead of storage for six months or more of fertilizer. Ammonia fuel cells will cost a fraction of hydrogen cells and there are many examples of existing engines and new designs running on ammonia fuel, including hybrid electric vehicles.

Canada 1981 – C.A.E.C.-Canadian Alternative Energy Corp.

Canada 2007 – Hydrofuel Inc.

USA 2007 – Green NH3

Italy 2013 – Marangoni Toyota GT86 Eco Explorer

South Korea 2013 – Energy Technology Institute

Jul 02, 2013 1:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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