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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Daimler, Ford, Renault-Nissan To Co-Develop Fuel Cell Vehicles

Three global automakers have signed an agreement to jointly develop a fuel cell system to power zero-emissions vehicles.

Three global automakers have signed an agreement to jointly develop a fuel cell system to power zero-emissions vehicles.

The collaboration of Daimler, Ford and Renault-Nissan is expected to reduce investment costs associated with engineering and accelerate the commercialization of fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) technology with a target of launching the first mass-market FCEVs as early as 2017.

Powered by electricity generated from hydrogen and oxygen, FCEVs emit only water while driving. FCEVs are considered complementary to today’s battery-electric vehicles, the automakers said in a release. The partners plan to develop a common fuel cell stack and fuel cell system that can be used by each company in the launch of differentiated, separately branded vehicles.

Together, Daimler, Ford and Nissan have more than 60 years of cumulative experience developing FCEVs that have logged more than 10 million km in test drives. 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 considering the joint development of other FCEV components to generate even further synergies.

The automakers say they hope the collaboration sends a clear signal to suppliers, policymakers and the industry to encourage further development of hydrogen refueling stations and other infrastructure necessary to allow the vehicles to be mass-marketed.

According to Fuel Cell Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) acquired four Toyota FCEVs earlier this month to dedicate to research on hydrogen refueling infrastructure, renewable hydrogen production, and fuel cell vehicle performance.

Collaborative innovation is becoming increasing common in the auto industry (and increasing important to industry across the board, according to GE). The Renault-Nissan alliance for electric vehicle development has been in place for roughly a decade, and Toyota has entered similar agreements with Tesla Motors and Ford to co-develop electric and hybrid electric drive systems.

@Bart_King is a freelance writer and communications consultant.