Honda and GM just gave hydrogen fuel-cell technology an $85 million boost

Electric and hybrid cars might be the most popular form of ultra-low-emission vehicle on the road right now, but they aren’t the only option. Honda and General Motors just announced plans to produce hydrogen fuel cell systems in the US by 2020, showing that the race for sustainable transport isn’t over.

Honda and GM just gave hydrogen fuel-cell technology an $85 million boost

The joint plans, announced at a briefing in Detroit earlier this week, will see an $85 million production line added to a battery plant Brownstown, Michigan – and should see the creation of 100 jobs.

The deal will see both companies hold 50% of the newly formed Fuel Cell System Manufacturing LLC company, and will mean that Honda and GM cars wil share the same hydrogen powertrains by 2020.

GM executive Mark Reuss set out exactly what the fuel cells could be used for. According to Reuters, Reuss said the newly developed fuel cells could be used to power everything from hydrogen cars to ride-sharing vehicles as well as aerospace and military applications.

Honda spokesperson Teruhiko Tatebe added: “The United States is where demand for fuel-cell vehicles is going to be among the highest so we’ve decided to consolidate our manufacturing operations into one location there.”

So why hydrogen vehicles?

Ultra-low-emission vehicles certainly represent the future of transport, but in 2017, EVs are significantly more popular than their hydrogen-powered counterparts. Despite that, manufacturers such as Audi and Toyota – and now Honda and GM – are still throwing money at hydrogen-car development

For example, the Toyota makes the Prius, one of the most popular electric hybrid cars on the road today, but it has still spent millions of pounds developing the Mirai.

However, what I find most interesting is Honda’s commitment to fuel-cell technology. At the briefing, Honda executives said that they expected two-thirds of its line-up by 2030 to be hydrogen-powered. When you compare that to its current figure of 5%, there’s clearly a lot of work to do.

Carmakers such as Audi, Mercedes and BMW are developing electric cars alongside hydrogen ones, but in the past few years there’s clearly been an emphasis on the electric programmes. In contrast, it looks like Honda is banking on hydrogen power more than anything else, and I’m pretty sceptical as to whether that’s a good idea or not.

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