Companies team up for fuel cell development

Park Sae-jin Reporter() | Posted : April 26, 2013, 10:08 | Updated : April 26, 2013, 10:08
Daimler, Ford and Nissan plan to develop and launch affordable fuel-cell vehicles within five years, in the latest sign of increasing cooperation among automakers to meet ever-tighter global emissions rules.

According to Reuters, Mercedes-Benz attached to Daimler, whose hydrogen-powered car technologies are the most advanced but still prohibitively expensive, will pool investment with its Japanese and US partners under a contract announced on Monday. The program aims to cut the technology‘s costs and launch the world’s first fuel-cell vehicles for the mass market in 2017, the companies said.

According to analysts, by spreading development costs - and using Ford and Nissan‘s sales volumes to help cover them Daimler is giving up some of its lead on the technology for faster implementation and a stronger business model. The three-way deal follows a similar announcement by Toyota and BMW, which outlined plans last week to launch fuel-cell vehicles around 2020.

Pure-electric cars are struggling to gain a foothold even in markets where they get generous subsidies, so manufacturers are looking for other ways to meet emissions limits in China, Europe and the United States. Hybrid cars are also likely to struggle as fuel standards become even stricter over the coming decades.

Fuel-cell cars, in common with rechargeable models like Nissan’s Leaf, are propelled by electric motors. Instead of a battery, a “stack” of cells combines hydrogen with oxygen from the air to generate the electricity. This means fuel cell cars largely avoid the “range anxiety” weighing on electric cars. They can fill up in minutes at a hydrogen pump and drive several times the typical 160-kilometre range of a battery car, which needs anything from 30 minutes to eight hours to recharge.

Hyundai is also betting on fuel cells to leapfrog battery technology and showed hydrogen-powered production models at last September‘s Paris auto show.

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