Honda and General Motors announced today that they have signed a partnership to collaborate on hydrogen fuel cell technology.
The brands will fully share their intellectual property in an effort to reduce costs and bring hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to the automotive mainstream by 2020. Honda already offers the FCX Clarity in California, and will bring a new version of that car to the market for 2015 — something that could benefit from the partnership, despite not being directly connected, Honda president and CEO Takanobu Ito said.
GM vice chairman Steve Girsky was quick to clarify that the companies are not collaborating on a vehicle, but rather on improving their respective hydrogen fuel cell systems by sharing their intellectual property. Collectively, the companies now share over fuel cell 1,200 patents filed between 2002 and 2012.
Currently, General Motors has 119 hydrogen vehicles in its fleet and can count over three million miles of real-world driving tests.
Both companies will work to reduce the cost associated with fuel cells while committing to increasing refueling infrastructure, which will be critical for the cars to succeed.
Reducing costs associated with fuel cell systems will also be important for the brands to offer commercially viable products. A need for platinum to act as a catalyst between the hydrogen and oxygen gasses makes the fuel cells inherently expensive, as does the need for a tank to contain the pressurized gas.
Last week, U.K. company ACAL Energy said it is able to reduce costs associated with hydrogen fuel cells by reducing the amount of platinum required by 80 percent.
ACAL Energy said it is in negotiations with several major automakers to license its system, but chief commercial officer Brendan Bilton declined to disclose which manufacturers that list includes. However, a spokesperson from the company did confirm in a separate interview that Honda is among the firm’s financial backers.
During a question and answer period after today’s joint announcement, a GM representative confirmed that part of the two companies’ plan to reduce those costs will have to do with cutting back on platinum use.
Bilton also confirmed that the company plans to license its system to any automaker interested in using it.
Industry tie-ups on hydrogen technology are becoming increasingly common. BMW and Toyota announced a partnership while Ford, Daimler and Renault-Nissan are also collaborating to mitigate costs and risks associated with creating hydrogen systems for the auto industry.