General Motors and Honda have announced a partnership aimed at developing a common system for fuel cell vehicles and getting those vehicles. The two are the third in a series if similar pairings announced between Toyota and BMW in January, and Daimler, Ford, and Nissan that same month.
Why the push for fuel cell vehicles? While the cost of refueling stations is steep - $1 million to $2 million - automakers are pushing to meet stiffer CO2 regulations scheduled to be in place later this decade.According to GM Vice Chairman Steve Girskey, the two hope to combine their talents and expertise quicker than anyone else. The engineers from each company will be working together side-by-side to create a common system for use by both automakers. And, both automakers are already leaders in the auto fuel cell industry. Honda has leased 85 fuel cell vehicles, called "FCX" for real world use. Similarly, GM's fleet of 119 hydrogen-powered Chevy Equinox vehicles have been tested by consumers in Los Angeles, New York, and DC, racking up nearly 3 million miles of real world use.
How do they work? Fuel cell vehicles create electricity from a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in the car's fuel-cell stack. The vehicle uses electric motors to propel it, batteries to store energy, and only water vapor is emitted from the tailpipe. The cost of developing these vehicles is high, partly due to the platinum used in the fuel-cell stacks, and partly due to the complexity of onboard storage of hydrogen gas tanks. This new partnership will allow the automakers to share the cost.
Can we expect to see fuel cell vehicles on the road and available to the general public soon? Not likely. GM and Honda have a goal of getting their vehicles into the showroom by 2020, while Daimler, Toyota, and Nissan have a goal of 2017. Either way, it sounds like they all may have a ways to go.
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