(Adds comment from analyst)
By Joseph Lichterman and Deepa Seetharaman
DETROIT, July 2 General Motors Co and
Honda Motor Co will jointly develop hydrogen fuel-cell
vehicle systems over the next seven years, the latest alliance
in an industrywide effort to cut the cost of the new technology
while meeting stricter global emissions rules.
The two automakers, which announced the 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 automakers worldwide race to meet global emissions and fuel
economy limits that are set to get tougher over the next 12
In the United States, for example, automakers must achieve a
corporate average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025
across their lineup, a technical measure which translates to 36
mpg or higher in actual driving.
"When you look ahead to 2025 when you have 54
mile-per-gallon fuel economy standards, something needs to
happen, and it's not going to be (battery) electric vehicles,"
said Dennis Virag, president of the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based
Automotive Consulting Group.
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 Tuesday at a press conference in New
"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 and they can run five times longer than
It takes just minutes to fill the tank with hydrogen
compared with eight hours or so to recharge an electric 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.
But the partnership between Honda and GM will help the
companies by combining their areas of expertise to help bring
down the costs of mass-producing fuel-cell vehicles by 2020,
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
Global automakers have recently 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 came after the failure of electric cars to
meet sales expectations, despite heavy global subsidies. Hybrids
have gained ground, but industry analysts say more is needed to
meet the new regulatory targets.
(Editing by Bob Burgdorfer, G Crosse)