GM, Honda to work together to build fuel cell systems in MI

GM and Honda will split an initial investment of about $85 million in the new joint venture, called Fuel Cell Systems Manufacturing, and plans to add almost 100 jobs about 2020 at the MI plant, GM said in its joint announcement with Honda.

Fuel Cell System Manufacturing LLC - the auto industry's first joint venture for fuel-cell manufacturing - will operate inside GM's battery pack assembly plant in Brownstown Township. The companies are making equal investments totaling $85 million in the joint venture. One of GM's most recent hydrogen-related programs is a fuel-cell pickup truck based on the Chevrolet Colorado and developed for the US military.

Proponents of fuel cell vehicles, which emit only water vapor, say the technology has significant advantages over other zero emissions models in terms of range and efficiency.

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Honda and GM engineers "have been working as one team with each company providing know-how from its unique expertise to create a compact and low-priced next-generation fuel cell system", Toshiaki Mikoshiba, chief operating officer of Honda North America, said in a prepared statement. However, the technology so far has not made economic sense, in part because of a lack of infrastructure to recharge vehicles with hydrogen.

"The eventual deployment of this technology in passenger vehicles will create more differentiated and environmentally friendly transportation options for consumers", said said Mark Reuss, head of Global Product Development at GM.

The actual fuel cell revealed today doesn't look like much.

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The fuel cell systems produced by the new company could be sold to automakers beyond GM and Honda to increase volume and reduce costs.

Fuel Cell System Manufacturing will be managed by a board of directors with three executives from each company and a rotating chairperson.

Last October, Auto Express reported that Honda and GM would develop a hydrogen fuel cell stack and tank, but not a complete vehicle together.

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Honda Motor and General Motors will team up to produce key components for fuel cell cars in the US, it was announced Monday, with the Japanese automaker reinforcing its American ties at a time of potential tension over trade. In addition to Toyota's Mirai, Hyundai leases a hydrogen fuel cell Tucson, and Mercedes-Benz has in the past equipped some sedans with the hydrogen fuel cell system. Unlike lithium-ion battery electric vehicles, a fuel cell vehicle already has a driving range nearing that of conventional gasoline-powered cars and trucks, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. - Charlie Freese, GM executive director of Global Fuel Cell Business. But size and cost have been hurdles. GM and Honda collaborated in a powertrain cross-supply arrangement in 1999.