Hot on the heels of its purchase of  the UD brand from Volvo Isuzu has announced it has linked up with Honda R&D to jointly research hydrogen-powered fuel cell heavy-duty electric trucks.

 It is believed to be the first time Honda has agreed to makes its fuel cell expertise available to an outside company

In a joint press release the two companies acknowledged that fuel cells make more sense for heavy-duty trucks such as those made by Isuzu, than for passenger cars, where battery-electric propulsion is favoured by most automakers. 

Several medium-duty truck makers are testing battery-electric powertrains where predictable routes ensure the trucks can return to base for overnight charging.

The excess weight of batteries in heavy-duty long-haul applications affect range and reduce freight-carrying capacity.

Honda claims three decades of fuel cell expertise and launched its fuel cell-powered passenger car, the Clarity in 2016.

Honda and General Motors announced a fuel cell stack joint venture in the USA in January 2017 citing production “around 2020” and it is believed this  could be nearing fruition, as equipment is currently being installed.

 The Isuzu announcement made no connection between the U.S.-based joint venture and the research collaboration in Japan. Honda only makes passenger cars and a light pickup, but it sees a limited market for fuel cell-powered passenger cars.

 Only about 10,000 hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles were on the road globally as of 2019, according to industry analysts.

 Toyota is developing fuel cell prime movers, working with Kenworth on a project to build 10 Class 8 heavy duty fuel cell trucks for testing in California. Nikola claims it has 14,000 orders for its fuel cell-powered heavy-duty trucks and says they are scheduled for a production start in late 2022.

Isuzu is also currently researching and developing clean diesel, natural gas and battery-electric powertrains.