Since 2013 Honda and GM have collaborated on fuel cell powertrain development, and plans now are to launch individually branded vehicles in the U.S. by 2020.
While GM has yet to roll out an actual production FCV for all to see, Honda has been out in front with its second-generation Clarity which went on sale in Japan last week with plans for markets in the U.S. and Europe to receive it by end of this year.
It is a third-generation FCV as yet also undisclosed that Honda is aiming to launch by 2020.
The pairing between the number one and number two largest patent holders in hydrogen FCV tech is about achieving two goals: Increased volume and decreased costs.
“There are big merits to combining to increase volume,” Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo told the media during the Clarity’s launch.
Honda hasn’t given a global sales target for either the Clarity or the next-generation vehicle that’s expected to launch in 2020. Honda said it would like to sell 200 units in Japan in 2016, and the company wants to sell in a volume of tens of thousands when the next-gen fuel cell launches. Up until now, fuel-cell vehicles have sold in low numbers.
“We are bringing all experience to the table, which means all that Honda learned from the Clarity fuel cell,” said Matthias Bork, head of all fuel cell powertrains at GM, to Automotive News during a fuel cell conference in Japan.
By contrast, Toyota is aiming for 30,000 units of fuel cell vehicles sold by the end of this decade.
GM and Honda are working jointly on the fuel-cell stack and hydrogen tanks, but the rest of the vehicles will be developed separately, and it’s expected that they won’t share bodywork.
The advanced fuel cell is expected to generate 95 kilowatts of power.
Faster manufacturing is another reason for the joint venture, but building fuel-cell vehicles quickly is trickier, due to components that are fragile.
“Durability, quality control and cost are three areas that need to be controlled going forward,” Honda engineer Takashi Moriya told Automotive News. “These things are contradictory, so how we do this is going to be a challenge.”