US DOE forms fuel cell partnership with Hyundai, Nissan, Toyota and Mercedes

Article by Anita Panait, on May 14, 2013

The United States Department of Energy has formed a public-private partnership with carmakers Hyundai Motor Co., Mercedes-Benz, Nissan Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. to advance affordable hydrogen-powered vehicles. The public-private partnership, named H2USA after the chemical symbol for hydrogen, was first reported in March 2013 by Automotive News.

David Danielson, an assistant secretary at DOE, said in a statement that by bringing together key stakeholders from across the US fuel cell and hydrogen industry, the H2USA partnership will “help advance affordable fuel cell electric vehicles that save consumers money and give drivers more options."

Fuel cell electric vehicles are viewed as one of the approaches to lower vehicle tailpipe emissions and lessen the world's dependence on oil. Like electric vehicles, fuel cell units utilize an electric motor to power them. But instead of storing power in batteries, fuel cell EVs convert natural gas or hydrogen into electricity through a chemical process inside a fuel cell.

Currently, the only fuel cell EVs available in the US are the Honda FCX Clarity, which costs nearly $1 million per unit to build and has been available for lease since 2008, and the Mercedes B-Class F-cell, which is also leased in certain areas in the US.

Although costs for building a fuel cell EV are falling fast, they are still expected to remain expensive even as more of them are sold in coming years. According to Toyota, which has vowed to sell its first fuel-cell EV in 2015, recently said these vehicles will cost about $50,000 apiece to make and could have a tag price of below $100,000.

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