It seems like everyone is pairing up to come up with hydrogen fuel-cell solutions these days. The latest of which are Honda and General Motors, who will work together to create viable fuel-cell technologies by 2020. You may say to yourself, “Hm, Honda has already produced two generations of its FCX hydrogen cars, and GM has a hydrogen version of its Chevrolet Equinox. Why do the two companies need one another?”
The answer lies in economies of scale. Each Honda FCX Clarity the company leases to a customer ends up costing Honda hundreds of thousands of dollars a year; GM doesn’t even sell or lease its research vehicles. Meanwhile, companies like Toyota are planning on having a hydrogen car for sale–not simply for lease–by 2015 at a cost of about $50,000 to consumers. Toyota will be eating about $50,000 per car, which sounds like a huge loss, but it will have BMW as its backing partner to help distribute the technology in its cars, cut costs, and eventually make a profitable hydrogen car, too.
Between GM and Honda, the two companies hold about 1,200 hydrogen fuel cell patents. The cars produced using their technologies can fuel up in as little as three or four minutes and drive a range of about 400 miles.
Recently, Tesla founder and fanboy of all things electric Elon Musk said the hydrogen fuel cell technology could not be made viable, calling it “fool cells.” But many automakers believe that hydrogen is one of the better solutions for solving energy and emissions problems, splitting hydrogen cells to produce electricity to power electric motors and creating water as their only emission.
Honda plans to have its third-generation FCX on the road by 2015; GM has not yet stated its production plans for a hydrogen car. The two automakers will combine their resources to make the production cheaper, their technology better, and hopefully make fuel cells viable by 2020. California will likely be the place such technologies proliferate, at least initially. But expect them to spread as the infrastructure becomes available.