General Motors and Honda have announced that their joint venture, Fuel Cell System Manufacturing LLC, will begin to “mass produce” hydrogen fuel cells from an existing Michigan facility, signaling the automakers’ commitment to developing fuel cell technology.
Despite barriers to commercialization, this technology appears to be a long-term priority for the industry. The cells run on hydrogen and oxygen, emitting only water as waste and exceeding the range of both electric and gas-powered vehicles. Several auto manufacturers are cooperating to develop affordable fuel cell technology. In addition to GM and Honda, Toyota is working with BMW, and Ford has teamed up with Daimler and Nissan to make this technology more affordable.
Costs, however, remain prohibitive to fuel cells becoming a mass market product. Fuel-cell powered cars are already available in some areas and have not yet taken hold. Toyota’s Mirai sedan sells for $45,000, $15,000 more than similar conventional models. Additionally, a fuel cell power station’s $1 million price tag exacerbates the cost of establishing a nationwide network necessary for widespread use.
If the industry is successful in making the fuel cell more accessible for the average consumer, hydrogen-powered cars could make for an interesting alternative to electric vehicles, since there would be no need to worry the long charge times of EVs. The two auto makers may be considering defense sector applications as well, which marks a different path to the market.