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Ford, Nissan, Daimler Collaborate On Hydrogen Cars

Mon, 01/28/2013 - 9:39am
Joel Hans, Managing Editor, Manufacturing.net

(L-R) Raj Nair, Group Vice President, Global Product Development, Ford Motor Company, Prof. Thomas Weber, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development and Mitsuhiko Yamashita, Member of the Board of Directors and Executive Vice President of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., supervising Research and Development.Germany (Manufacturing.net) — Automakers Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. Have announced a three-way agreement to push the commercialization of fuel cell electric (FCEV) technology. The coalition aims to launch the first affordable, mass-market FCEVs on a global scale as early as 2017.

“Fuel cell electric vehicles are the obvious next step to complement today's battery electric vehicles as our industry embraces more sustainable transportation,” said Mitsuhiko Yamashita, Member of the Board of Directors and Executive Vice President of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

FCEVs differ from battery-based electric vehicles in that the electrical power comes from a fuel cell, which houses an electro-chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is stored in a high-pressure tank onboard the vehicle, while oxygen is pulled in from the air. One of the primary benefits of FCEVs is that the only by-products are water vapor and heat, both of which can be easily dispersed into the environment without concern.

The coalition says that engineering work for the fuel cell systems will be done jointly by the three companies at various facilities around the world, which will enable them to share new research developments. The companies aim to establish global specifications and component standards to make collaboration with Tier 1 parts suppliers easier. By collaborating globally, the companies hope that suppliers and policymakers will move to encourage further developments in FCEV technology. A few years down the road, the three companies will be able to produce separately-branded FCEVs for consumers around the world.

“We are convinced that fuel cell vehicles will play a central role for zero-emission mobility in the future. Thanks to the high commitment of all three partners we can put fuel cell e-mobility on a broader basis. This means with this cooperation we will make this technology available for many customers around the globe”, said Prof. Thomas Weber, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. 

The news of the three-way agreement did not mention specifically how the companies would address the need to shore-up the necessary infrastructure to make hydrogen-based vehicles economically and practically viable, even in modernized countries. According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, there are only 10 public hydrogen hydrogen fueling stations in the U.S., almost all of which are located in southern California. Dozens of privately-owned hydrogen refueling stations exist as well, such as on Ford's Dearborn property, but these are of no use to ordinary consumers.

It is unclear if the collaboration will help drive the infrastructure, or if they are hoping it will come to parity by the time the FCEVs are released.

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