GM and Honda join forces to promote fuel cell technology

TO be seen in California as Honda joins with GM to lower fuel cell vehicle costs

General Motors and the Honda Motor Co. Of Japan are combining forces to decrease the costs of fuel cell powered vehicles. The companies have stated an objective of reducing the cost to be comparable to that of hybrid vehicles within the next decade. Honda already has very recently begun selling its fuel powered FCV Clarity to local business in Japan, and it will be offered to retail customers at 7.66 million yen ($67,000). In the U.S., The company announced plans for launching in selected California markets with a retail list price of approximately $60000.

The combined effort expects lower costs can be extracted from initial joint procurement and production of components. Honda President Takahiro also has revealed some more details of the 5-seater Clarity Fuel Cell sedan. Honda and GM have been working on fuell cell technology since 2013, and recent advancements has led to more compact stacks that are capable of producing higher outputs, which can be seen in the second generation of the Honda FCX Clarity. The range is expected to exceed 300 miles with allotment of up to five minutes required for refueling.

The zero emission technology, has been around since the early 1800s, and has been used by NASA in some space missions in the 1960s. It offers several benefits over conventional combustion energy generation systems, as there is no combustion, resulting practically no emissions. The cell combines oxygen and hydrogen to generate heat and electricity, and the by product is water which can be recycled. Another of the big benefits, is unlike the battery, fuel cells can last indefinitely, as there is no energy source that is depleted, requiring replacement of the unit, but instead requires replacement of abundant resources of hydrogen and oxygen, which is basically derived from the air.

The disadvantage is that it has remained expensive, as high pressures are required, a continuous source of hydrogen which is stored in the vehicle, and an extensive infrastructure to allow refueling. There is also, an increased amount of versatility with different types of fuel cells that offer individual advantages.

The focus on energy efficiency and clean air, in addition to concerns about the change in climate and securing of energy resources drew much attention to alternatives, and was one of the drivers for the interest in adoption of fuel cell technology. Attention and interest has been cyclical, but commercialization was reestablished in earnest in 2007. Commercially applications include fuel buses, but the operating costs remains 500 percent higher than that of diesel fuel, which limits the use to environments where the benefits are certain to outweigh the investment. There is the important requirement for policies, codes and standards, which are not yet fully in place.

The collaboration between Honda and GM may be a small step, but a step on the right direction. Several challenges remain as the world is still awash in cheap fossil fuel, consumer confidence is sometimes difficult to change. GM has previously built fuel cell version of the Colorado, and accepted the challenge to include the innovation in all brands. Honda CEO Hachigo has said that while the company and others such as Toyota and Hyundai are championing fuel cell technology, Honda hopes to extend the collaboration to include introduction of artificial intelligence and electric automobiles along with other technologies and it is becoming much more difficult to differentiate the auto from a computer on wheels.

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