When we talk about the future of emission-free driving, we think about electric vehicles. That means vehicles that are simply powered by a battery. The former darling of eco-consciousness, the hydrogen fuel cell, has been pushed into obscurity. But, with the combined might of GM and Honda, it’s coming back.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell
Hydrogen fuel cells combine oxygen and hydrogen to produce electricity, heat, and water. There are no harmful emissions. The main difference between batteries and fuel cells is that fuel cells will not lose their charge over time. All they require is hydrogen fuel.
GM was responsible for creating the very first hydrogen fuel cell – and they did it much earlier than you’d think. In 1966, the company debuted a modified GMC Handivan, which they called the Electrovan. Room for six passengers was reduced to two with most of the space being occupied by giant oxygen and hydrogen tanks, and a mess of wires. The Electrovan boasted an impressive driving range of 193km, but was never taken off private property for safety concerns. Something, something Handinburg…
The Electrovan didn’t amount to much, so GM shelved the fuel cell program for 40 years. Now, they’re back in earnest, enlisting help from Honda. The Japanese automaker is the leader in hydrogen technology. Their Clarity sedan is already a viable option for drivers – where fueling infrastructure permits (California). Together, GM and Honda are investing $85 million USD in a venture called Fuel Cell System Manufacturing. At GM’s battery pack plant in Brownstown, Michigan, they’ll be producing the next generation of fuel cell. Together, GM and Honda will also be working with the government (good luck) to improve infrastructure for hydrogen fueling.
Today, nearly every automaker has at least one electric vehicle. GM alone has the Chevy Bolt and Spark, as well as hybrid vehicles like Cadillac’s CT6. But maybe that’s the point. 100% emission-free roadways will be here soon. And, with the EV marketplace already crowded, it might be wise for automakers to diversify their clean energy lineup.