THE route towards hydrogen fuel cell motoring has turned into a superhighway with the announcement of a mighty partnership that will bring this fuel source a step closer to British driveways.
General Motors - the US parent of Vauxhall - has teamed up with Japanese giant Honda to establish the auto industry's first manufacturing joint venture to mass produce an advanced hydrogen fuel cell system that will be used in future vehicles from each company.
Fuel Cell System Manufacturing will operate within GM's existing battery pack manufacturing facility site in Brownstown, Michigan, south of Detroit.
Mass production of fuel cell systems is expected to begin around 2020 and create nearly 100 new jobs.
The companies are making equal investments totaling $85 million in the joint venture.
Honda and GM have been working together through a master collaboration agreement announced in July 2013.
It has already established the co-development arrangement for a next-generation fuel cell system and hydrogen storage technologies.
The companies integrated their development teams and shared hydrogen fuel cell intellectual property to create a more affordable commercial solution for fuel cell and hydrogen storage systems.
"Over the past three years, engineers from Honda and GM have been working as one team with each company providing know-how from its unique expertise to create a compact and low-cost next-generation fuel cell system," said Toshiaki Mikoshiba, chief operating officer of the North American Region for Honda.
"This foundation of outstanding teamwork will now take us to the stage of joint mass production of a fuel cell system that will help each company create new value for our customers in fuel cell vehicles of the future."
The Fuel Cell System Manufacturing (FCSM) joint venture will be operated by a board of directors consisting of three executives from each company that will include a rotating chairperson. In addition, a president will be appointed to rotate between each company.
GM and Honda are leaders in fuel cell technology with more than 2,220 patents between them, according to the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index. GM and Honda rank No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in total fuel cell patents filed in 2002 through 2015.
The two companies already have fuel cell cars on the road with GM recently completing more than three million miles of road testing in hydrogen powered Chevrolet Equinox SUVs while Honda has had its FCX Clarity saloon on the road in the UK for several years.
Fuel cell technology addresses many of the major challenges facing the auto industry such as petroleum dependency, carbon emissions, efficiency, range and refueling times.
Fuel cell vehicles can operate on hydrogen made from renewable sources such as wind and biomass.
Water vapor is the only emission from fuel cell vehicles.