Wednesday, October 07, 2015
What Brought These Automakers Together?
GM and Honda for several months have been co-developing next-gen fuel cell systems and hydrogen storage technology. 2020 is their target for releasing cars using the new technology they develop. Sharing expertise and creating more economic sourcing strategies is a new idea for automotive companies.
But this partnership may be the perfect fit for long-term consumer acceptance and viability of vehicles using fuel cells for energy. That’s because GM and Honda rank No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, for most fuel cell patents filed from 2002-2012, amassing more than 1,200 between them.
They believe fuel cell tech can solve the biggest challenges of the industry currently – fossil fuel dependency, efficiency, emission pollution, and refueling. Fuel cells operate on renewable hydrogen from such readily available resources as wind and biomass. Emissions from them are solely found in the water vapor. Vehicles using this technology can go up to 400 miles and need as little as three minutes to refuel. And the size of the vehicle doesn’t alter their ability to function.
The two companies started working together several months ago, but with the beginning of October, General Motor Co.’s product chief, Mark Reuss announced the two will be doing even more work together. He was not ready to announce the specifics yet. He also indicated GM is looking for other strategic partnerships in non-auto companies to further technology used throughout their vehicles.
All of these new partnerships fall right in line with plans also announced by GM’s CEO, Mary Barra, to bring a more entrepreneurial outlook to all of GM’s staff and products. They’ve been in an excuse mode since the bankruptcy, and she wants to push them back to thinking like a top firm, in much the same way other automakers like Honda and Toyota think and act. So the opportunity to learn from other companies while working together creates that “win-win” situation companies want.
GM is also pushing their design teams to use more common parts for the vehicles they make. GM’s new compact cars, the Chevy Cruze (in the US) marketed as the Opel Astra (in Europe), are now built in this way. Reuss’ team in Michigan consulted with engineers and designers around the world to arrive at one common structure for the car. The common parts will also soon be used for family sedans and compact vehicles. In six months when the new Cruze, Chevy Malibu, and Astra start selling, Chevy’s cost will be $1,500 less per car to produce because of the common parts.
GM appears to be moving their company forward, willingly forging bonds with competitors to create the best technology in the process.