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Nissan Joins Ford and Daimler in Alliance to Develop Fuel-Cell Technology

Fuel Cell AllianceFord and Daimler recently added another partner to their fuel-cell alliance. Nissan Motor partnered up with the two to work together developing hydrogen technology that can be used in fuel-cell electric vehicles. The goal is to bring to market the first mass-market fuel-cell electric cars that are actually affordable by 2017.

The partners are sharing costs equally on their quest to develop common fuel-cell stacks and other systems that will “speed up availability of zero-emission technology and significantly reduce investment costs,” according to a statement. Thomas Weber, Daimler’s research and development head said at a news conference in Germany that while the time frame was unclear, they hoped to produce 100,000 vehicles. 

BMW and Toyota inked a fuel-cell partnership just last week, saying they would work together on new technology.

While the new timeline represents a bit of a retreat for Daimler who had claimed they would have a fuel-cell car to market in 2014-2015, the new alliance is a very positive step forward. It would allow them to go directly to large-scale production as the three automakers each plan on bringing a large number of fuel-cell cars to market.

Fuel Cell Cars are the Next Step Forward

Experts say that fuel cell technology is the next step when it comes to zero-emission vehicles. Forming alliances makes good business sense, making it easier to place large orders for components which drive down the cost of fuel-cell technology.

While the current costs of manufacturing fuel-cell battery vehicles is more than twice the cost of lithium-ion battery vehicles, as the cars come to market those costs should drop quickly. Recent troubles with Boeing’s Dreamliner have also raised safety concerns about lithium-ion battery technology. 

Daimler and Ford have been working together since 2008 at the Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation which is based in Vancouver, Canada. This is not set to change because of the new alliance. The partners are excited to offer fuel-cell technology in addition to models that already make use of battery electrics, hybrids, diesels and gasoline direct injection.

One of the major hurdles to bring fuel-cell technology to the open market is the lack of hydrogen stations in deployment markets. Even California lacks a sufficient number of refilling stations to make fuel-cell cars convenient for drivers. The three automakers announced that their alliance sends a clear message to suppliers as well as state policy makers that the industry is going to pursue fuel-cell technology and that the necessary infrastructure should be developed. If the proper infrastructure was in place, fuel-cell cars could overcome the major shortcoming of pure electric vehicles, mainly the lack of range.

Daimler is putting their money where their mouth is and joined gas producer Linde to install 20 hydrogen filling stations located throughout Germany.

Nissan recently joined Ford and Daimler to become the third member of an alliance to develop fuel-cell technology. All three automakers have a vested interested in bringing fuel-cell cars to market.