Honda and GM kick-off joint hydrogen fuel cell production
Honda and GM announced plans for the joint venture in 2017, and Honda followed up with a new hydrogen strategy around a year ago, including cooperation with General Motors.
The US carmaker is already marketing fuel cell systems under the Hydrotec label. Autocar Industries is developing heavy commercial FCEVs, and GM is considering using the Hydrotec systems in off-grid charging stations.
Honda is also working on heavy-duty applications and is already testing the ‘Giga Fuel Cell’ truck with Isuzu in Japan as reported. The manufacturer also announced a fuel cell version of the CR-V compact SUV in small series production for 2024.
Now fully fusing their capabilities, Honda and GM described the start of their joint production this week as “a pivotal moment in the commercialization of hydrogen fuel cell systems”. They point to the 2017 agreement and developments going back to 2013 when Honda and GM engineers first began work on next-gen fuel cell systems.
Further collaboration aimed to double durability compared to the 2019 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell by using corrosion-resistant materials and by improving low-temperature operation, writes GM. The new fuel cells shall also cost one-third less than those in the original Clarity FCEV (discontinued in 2021).
The partners add that they managed to lower development and manufacturing costs by leveraging economies of scale, advancing the cell design, and simplifying supporting auxiliary equipment. There is also mention of utilizing common sourcing and reducing costly precious metals, but it remains unclear where these come from.
“We begin the process with raw materials for membrane and electrode all the way through completed systems,” said FCSM president Suheb Haq.
GM and Honda call FCSM the first large-scale manufacturing joint venture to build fuel cells.
The 70,000-square-foot (6,500 sqm) facility in Brownstown has 80 staff so far. They work on highly automated lines, with GM specifically mentioning automating membrane-electrode and fuel cell stack assembly.
“We brought a mass production mindset with attention to detail and a focus on high quality, and now we are ready to meet the needs of the customers for the future applications of fuel cell technology and the beginning of the hydrogen era,” said Tetsuo Suzuki, vice president of FCSM.