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Fuel-cell activity heating up

Daimler, Ford and Renault-Nissan sign fuel-cell development deal with 2017 target

Published: January 28, 2013, 4:00 PM

(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.

Daimler, Ford and the Renault-Nissan alliance today announced the signing of a three-way agreement for the joint development of common fuel cell systems to speed up the commercial availability of the technology and reduce investment costs.

Daimler and Ford are already joint-venture partners, along with Ballard Power Systems in Automotive Fuel Cell Corporation, which is based in Vancouver B.C.

This new collaboration is expected to lead to launch of affordable, mass-market fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs)as early as 2017.

It is also intended to send a signal to suppliers, policymakers and the industry to encourage the further development of hydrogen infrastructure worldwide, in preparation for the arrival of these FCEVs.

The goal of the collaboration is to jointly develop a common fuel cell electric vehicle system while reducing investment costs associated with the engineering of the technology.

Each company will invest equally towards the project and each is expected to produce their own highly differentiated and separately branded vehicles, sharing a common fuel cell stack and fuel cell system.

This strategy of maximizing design commonality, leveraging volume and deriving efficiencies through economies of scale is expected to enable the launch of the world’s first affordable, mass-market FCEVs as early as 2017, the companies say.

All three companies have and extensive background in fuel-cell research and development, collectively logging more than 10 million km in test drives around the world in customers’ hands and as part of demonstration projects.

Engineering work on both the fuel cell stack and the fuel cell system will be done jointly by the three companies at several locations around the world. The partners are also studying the joint development of other FCEV components to generate even further synergies.

"Working together will significantly help speed this technology to market at a more affordable cost to our customers," said Raj Nair, group vice president, Global Product Development, Ford Motor Company. "We will all benefit from this relationship as the resulting solution will be better than any one company working alone."

BMW and Toyota recently announced a similar collaboration for cooperation on fuel-cell development.