Honda and Isuzu have shocked the truck world by announcing that they will jointly research the use of hydrogen fuel cells to power heavy-duty trucks, and look to expand fuel cell use by applying the zero-emission technology to larger vehicles.
Thanks he companies said that as part of a two-year deal, Isuzu will test Honda’s fuel cell powertrain, which was designed for passenger cars, in Isuzu’s commercial trucks, the companies said, which could pave the way for using the technology in a wider range of vehicles.
The tightening of emission regulations around the globe has automotive companies looking to develop more electric vehicles (EVs) to enable them to complyand meet demand for zero emission transport.
A growing number of truck makers see hydrogen fuel cells as an effective way to power trucks, buses and other big vehicles.
“Although we have done extensive R&D into passenger FCVs (fuel cell vehicles), we have not been able to study how best to apply the technology to commercial vehicles,” a Honda spokesman said.
“This partnership will allow us to do that.”
Fuel cell vehicles generate their own electricity using hydrogen stored in onboard tanks, this enables them to travel longer distances and refuel more quickly than battery EVs, while using less costly energy storage systems.
“We think that FCV technology is well suited for heavier trucks which travel longer distances, and this partnership will enable us to examine this further,” said an Isuzu spokeswoman.
“Isuzu is also developing various lower-carbon powertrains including battery-electric technology for shorter-distance vehicles,” the spokeswoman said.
With its Clarity Fuel Cell sedan, Honda is one of a handful of automakers which have developed and marketed fuel cell-powered passenger cars.
Light- and medium-sized truck specialist Isuzu has for years has focused on diesel engine technology and has yet to market fully electric vehicles.
But a price tag starting around $US 70,000 for the Clarity and scant hydrogen fuelling infrastructure globally, Honda has seen limited take-up of that model and other FCVs since they began marketing them around 2015.
In 2018 Honda sold just 654 Clarity FCVs, which are available only in Japan and the United States through leasing programs, compared with Honda’s total annual global sales of 5.23 million cars.
The partnership is the latest in a growing trend among vehicle makers joining forces to better compete in an industry upended by the rise of electric vehicles, self-driving cars and other new technologies.
Honda and Isuzu are reviving their vehicle partnership following an agreement in the early l990s under which Isuzu manufactured sport utility vehicles for Honda in the North American market.