General Motors and Honda on Monday announced they are establishing a joint venture intended to bring costs down on advanced hydrogen fuel cell systems, so they can mass produce them for their vehicles.
Fuel Cell System Manufacturing, LLC will operate within GM’s existing battery pack manufacturing facility site in Brownstown, Mich., south of Detroit. Mass production of fuel cell systems is expected to begin around 2020 and create 100 jobs.
The companies are making equal investments totaling $85 million in the joint venture.
Since July 2013, Honda and GM have been working together through a master collaboration agreement. Under the collaboration, the companies integrated their development teams for next-generation fuel cell systems and hydrogen storage, and will now share hydrogen fuel cell intellectual property.
GM and Honda have more than 2,220 fuel cell patents between them, ranking No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in total fuel cell patents filed between 2002 through 2015, according to a press release.
Toshiaki Mikoshiba, president of Honda North America, Inc, said in a statement that each company will bring its “unique expertise” to create “a compact and low-cost next-gen fuel cell system.”
The Fuel Cell System Manufacturing (FCSM) joint venture will be operated by a board of directors consisting of three executives from each company that will include a rotating chairperson. In addition, a president will be appointed to rotate between each company.
Fuel cell vehicles can operate on hydrogen made from renewable sources such as wind and biomass. Water vapor is the only emission from fuel cell vehicles.
In addition to advancing the performance of the fuel cell system, GM and Honda said they plan to work together to reduce the cost of development and manufacturing through economies of scale and common sourcing.
“Precious metals have been reduced dramatically and a fully cross-functional team is developing advanced manufacturing processes simultaneously with advances in the design,” said Charlie Freese, GM executive director of Global Fuel Cell Business, in a statement. “The result is a lower-cost system that is a fraction of the size and mass.”
The companies say they are also working with governments and other stakeholders, with the intent of “advancing the refueling infrastructure that is critical for the long-term viability and consumer acceptance of fuel cell vehicles.”
Honda began delivery of its Clarity Fuel Cell vehicle to U.S. customers in December 2016, following a spring 2016 launch in Japan. It has a driving range of 366 miles and fuel economy rating of 68 mpg.
This isn’t the first time the two companies have collaborated on powertrain development. GM and Honda collaborated in a powertrain cross-supply arrangement in 1999. Honda manufactured 50,000 V-6 engines for the Saturn VUE and Honda received diesel engines from GM’s Isuzu affiliate for use in Europe.