Have GM and Honda Just Cracked the Key to Hydrogen?

Honda sign

Eleven years after automakers Honda and General Motors started discussing developing and producing hydrogen fuel cells together in the quest for a zero-emissions future, they're about to close out their first month of successfully producing salable fuel cell modules. According to a report from Autoweek, Honda and GM's jointly-owned 70,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Brownstown, Michigan, will build and deliver several thousand hydrogen fuel cell modules by the end of the year.

The Plan for Their Fuel Cell System Manufacturing LLC Plant

Autoweek reports that hydrogen-powered vehicles have had a rough go in the automotive world. Even in California, where Governor Gavin Newsom signed over nine figures worth of state funding last year to build up the Golden State's hydrogen fueling infrastructure further, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have yet to catch on with the public.

For starters, there are only 65 hydrogen fuel stations in the entire state, most of which are in Southern California. The state has also registered less than 20,000 hydrogen vehicle sales (there are more than 31 million registered vehicles in California). Even the Shell corporation backed out of their $40 million deal with the state to develop more hydrogen fuel stations.

But as Autoweek's report explains, Honda and GM's Fuel Cell System Manufacturing LLC plant will focus on a new hydrogen economy approach. Instead of solely focusing on passenger vehicles, this joint venture will invest in creating fuel cells for dump trucks, haulers, mining trucks, cement rollers, and terminal tractors. They will also provide heavy-duty machinery such as forklifts and stationary power stations.

It's an intelligent method for reducing CO2 emissions because operating “severe duty” machines like these create so much greenhouse gas from their internal combustion engines (ICEs). It will be considerably more straightforward for the companies that use these machines to invest in both the hydrogen fuel cell versions of this equipment and the necessary refueling infrastructure than it will be for the average consumer to buy a $60,000 car (and pay $78 to $90 to refill it).

Autoweek's report also points out that hydrogen fuel cell modules are a viable option for Class 8 semi-trucks. Heavy-duty hydrogen fuel cell trucks also have superior driving range and payload capacities than their electric vehicle (EV) counterparts. Their report also states that Honda is in talks with a Class 8 truck company considering investing in a hydrogen-powered semi with 1,000 miles of driving range.

However, Honda will also continue making hydrogen-powered passenger cars. They still plan to use about 500 of the fuel-cell modules they produce this year and use them in their Honda CR-Vs by 2025. Those CR-Vs will be hybrids with a hydrogen fuel-cell stack instead of an ICE. By 2030, Honda hopes there will be demand for as many as 60,000 hydrogen fuel cell modules a year between their usage in passenger cars and heavy-duty trucks and machinery.

Author: Jarret Hendrickson

Title: Writer

Expertise: Automotive Industry News, Film, Drama, and Creative Writing.