GM and Honda set up fuel cell manufacturing JV

General Motors - which owns Britain's Vauxhall - and Honda announced the motor industry's first joint fuel-cell manufacturing operation in MI. The companies are going to use the hydrogen fuel cell systems that they create in future products.

One way the GM-Honda fuel cell joint venture will reduce costs is by using common components and the same part numbers for the fuel cell systems, regardless of which vehicle brand it powers. Manufacturing will take place at an existing GM plant in Brownstown Township near Detroit.

Theoretically a fuel cell stack could replace the battery pack in a full-electric auto such as the Chevrolet Bolt, which has just gone on sale.

The fuel cell stacks being built will find their way into next-generation hydrogen fuel cell vehicles starting around 2020, and will be shipped to other factories where they will be installed into the vehicles.

Vehicles powered by fuel cells earn credits for automakers under federal and state rules aimed at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases that allow them to sell larger, petroleum-fueled vehicles that typically earn higher profits.

The collaboration will mean smaller and much lower cost systems than at present, said the companies.

Experts said fuel cell vehicles can operate on hydrogen made from renewable sources such as wind and biomass. - Charlie Freese, GM executive director of Global Fuel Cell Business.

Fuel-cell systems, which transform hydrogen into electricity for propulsion power with zero emissions except for water, have always been seen as the ultimate answer to eliminating pollution from transportation.

Formally dubbed Fuel Cell System Manufacturing LLC, the new unit is funded equally by the two makers, each of which has contributed to its total cost of $85 million. The two companies have pooled development resources, and intellectual property has been shared in search of a more efficient powertrain.

The company will reportedly be operated by a board of directors comprised of executives from both automakers. GM ranks first and Honda third for number of patents filed between 2002 and 2015. As a result, the U.S. Department of Energy is leading government and industry efforts to make hydrogen-powered vehicles an affordable, environmentally friendly, and safe transportation option, it said on its website.

Honda began delivery of its all-new Clarity Fuel Cell vehicle to US customers in December 2016 following a spring 2016 launch in Japan, with those to the United Kingdom following more recently.