During a press conference this morning with Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, General Motors Co. and Honda Motor Co., Ltd. announced plans to create the industry’s first manufacturing joint venture to mass produce a hydrogen fuel cell system that will be used in future products from both companies.
The joint venture, called Fuel Cell System Manufacturing, will operate within GM’s existing battery pack manufacturing facility site in Brownstown Township. The mass production of fuel cell systems is expected to begin in 2020, and the project is expected to create nearly 100 new jobs. The automakers are making equal investments totaling $85 million in the joint venture.
Fuel cell technology addresses many of the major challenges facing automobiles today — petroleum dependency, emissions, efficiency, range, and refueling times. Fuel cell vehicles can operate on hydrogen made from renewable sources like wind and biomass. The only emission from fuel cell vehicles is water vapor.
“We’re extremely proud that in Michigan two automotive industry giants have come together to create a significant advancement in fuel-cell technology,” says Calley. “This collaboration and the potential impact is a testament to GM and Honda’s commitment to the state, and reflects the promising possibilities of conducting business in the global automotive capital.”
GM and Honda have been working together since announcing a master collaboration agreement in July 2013, which established the co-development arrangement for a next-generation fuel cell system and hydrogen storage technologies. The companies integrated their development teams and shared related intellectual property to create a more affordable commercial solution for fuel cell and hydrogen storage systems.
GM is currently demonstrating the capability of fuel cells across a range of land, sea, and air applications. The company has accumulated millions of miles of real-world driving in fuel cell vehicles.
“With the next-generation fuel cell system, GM and Honda are making a dramatic step toward lower cost, higher-volume fuel cell systems. Precious metals have been reduced dramatically and a fully cross-functional team is developing advanced manufacturing processes simultaneously with advances in the design,” says Charlie Freese, GM executive director of global fuel cell business. “The result is a lower-cost system that is a fraction of the size and mass.”
The Fuel Cell System Manufacturing joint venture will be operated by a board of directors consisting of three executives from each company. The board’s president will also be appointed to rotate between each company.
“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-gen fuel cell system,” says Toshiaki Mikoshiba, chief operating officer of the North American region for Honda Motor Co. and president of Honda North America Inc. “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.”
GM and Honda have more than 2,200 fuel cell technology patents between them, and ranked first and third, respectively, in total fuel cell patents filed from 2002-2015.
The Michigan Strategic Fund, at its monthly meeting this morning, approved a $2-million performance-based grant to Fuel Cell System Manufacturing that calls for the creation of 64 jobs, and a $48.9-million investment in the Brownstown Charter Township facility. MSF is entrusted with state authority to promote economic growth and job creation.