January 28, 2013
Fuel Cell Deal Comes Together Between Ford, Daimler And Nissan
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
The case for electric cars has just received some additional help, thanks to a partnership between 3 major auto makers. Daimler, Ford and Renault-Nissan have all agreed to develop a fuel cell together in order to bring more zero-emission automobiles to the world´s highways by 2017.
All told, these 3 companies say they plan to build 100,000 cars powered by a new hydrogen-based fuel cell. According to Thomas Weber, the head of research and development for Daimler, each of the 3 automobile makers will invest equally in the project. Weber announced Daimler´s participation in the group today at a press conference in Nabern, Germany.
Though short on other details, Weber did say the technology will be different than what is currently being used in electric cars, such as Nissan´s Leaf or Daimler´s Smart Car. Other automakers, such as Toyota– the world´s largest producer of hybrid vehicles– have recently said they´ll work with Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and others to quicken their production of electric cars.
“This technology has the biggest potential for emission- free driving” said Weber during the press conference, according to Bloomberg. “This cooperation gives us the opportunity to bind together the know-how of three experienced partners” to make electric cars a commercially viable alternative.
Raj Nair, group vice president of global product development at Ford agrees. According to Nair, this partnership will not only make these automobiles available sooner, it will also make these cars cheaper to produce and, therefore, cheaper to buy.
"We will all benefit from this relationship as the resulting solution will be better than any one company working alone," Nair said in a statement.
The fuel cells to be developed by the Daimler/Ford/Nissan partnership will produce electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen. The only emission left over from the process is evaporated water. This kind of technology is said to offer automobiles a driving range closer to that of a traditional automobile with a combustible engine. The electric cars that are currently available cannot match this range.
In addition to providing better and cleaner technology, these car makers hope that this partnership will allow them to share the cost of the project and eventually get to a point where they are producing high volumes of fuel cells. According to Weber, these high volumes will help the automakers when it comes to negotiating with suppliers.
According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Nissan is slated to work under a contract with Daimler and Ford without taking a stake in the existing Automotive Fuel Cell Corp. Nissan has decided this will help speed up the production process and avoid lengthy negotiations.
Moving forward, each of the companies have said they´ll use each others' testing facilities in Detroit, Stuttgart, Tokyo and Vancouver to develop the fuel cell technology. Once completed, each automaker will use the resulting technology in their own line of cars, likely starting with front-wheel drive models, says Weber.
“This powertrain is the start of a modular strategy,” he said. “It has to be adaptable into several models.”