Daimler AG, Ford, and Nissan have signed a three-way agreement for joint development of a common fuel system designed to improve costs and set standards and specifications. The group expects it will lead to affordable, mass-market fuel-cell electric vehicles later this decade.- G.R. Whale


We've been hearing for ages how hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars are the future of motoring, but three companies are doubling down on the technology. We hear that Ford, Nissan, and Daimler recently joined forces to put an affordable fuel cell car on sale by 2017, one of the boldest goals yet in the march towards hydrogen.

This isn't the first time that we've seen a partnership between competing car companies to mainstream this technology: Toyota and BMW joined together just days ago to develop fuel cells and a new sports car. Daimler and Ford already had a joint venture called Automotive Fuel Cell Corporation; neither Honda nor Hyundai have partners, but both already have working prototypes of fuel cell vehicles.

While Nissan won't formally take a stake in Automotive Fuel Cell Corporation -- the contract negotiations would take too long -- it will work with Ford and Daimler toward a clear goal of selling an affordable fuel-cell vehicle by 2017.

As it stands now, it looks like all three manufacturers will sell their own fuel cell cars, but the models would be powered by the same propulsion system and ride the same platform -- not unlike the partnership that created the Toyota FT-86/Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ. Together, the three companies will invest equal amounts of money in the project (although no actual figures were given), and combined, the three automakers hope to sell at least 100,000 cars.

All of this sounds very good, but the major impediment here is the fact that a typical driver can't drive down to their corner fuel station and ask the attendant to "fill it up with hydrogen." American hydrogen infrastructure needs to progress for these cars to be viable and it won't come cheap: it's estimated that outfitting an existing gas station with a hydrogen pump will cost $1 million. There is currently a smattering of hydrogen-pumping stations across the country, but they are few and far between.

Still, Daimler, Ford, and Nissan hope that their partnership -- and other similar deals -- will send a clear signal that hydrogen is well on its way to becoming a mainstream fuel.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)