In a move that could be significant for the future of hydrogen fuelled vehicles General Motors and Honda have announced the first Joint Fuel Cell System manufacturing operation.

The new joint operation will be based at GM’s existing battery manufacturing facility in Michigan with mass production of hydrogen fuel cells expected to begin in the next 3 years. Both manufacturers are contributing equally to the $85 million investment to get the facility off the ground.

Honda and GM have been working together since 2013 to develop the next generation of fuel cell systems and hydrogen storage technologies. They’ve combined their development teams to share improvements in hydrogen technology to “create a more affordable commercial solution”.

Both companies are market leaders in the development of hydrogen technology, holding more than 2,200 patents between them and according to the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index rank 1st (Honda) and 3rd (GM) for the number of new patents filed since 2002. By joining forces to drive down the manufacturing costs and improve the technology this is a major step forward in developing an affordable and practical solution to the environmental challenges facing the automotive industry.

Taking the necessary steps to improve the technology and move towards lower cost/higher volume production should see the costs of hydrogen fuelled vehicles fall in the future. This move could provide the impetus needed to broaden the reach and appeal of hydrogen as an environmentally sensitive option across the automotive industry.

While this is significant in terms of the practicality of hydrogen technology in the vehicles themselves, there is still a lot to be done in terms of the infrastructure required to ensure this technology becomes a viable alternative. We are still a long way from mitigating our dependency on traditional fuels but it is hoped that this joint venture will provide “an opportunity to further utilise the strengths of each company to popularise fuel cell vehicles at the earliest possible time”.