Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company and Nissan Motor Company have become the latest automakers to enter into an agreement aimed at developing a common fuel cell system that would speed up the real-world availability of zero-emission technology and significantly reduce the total investment costs. Under this pact, the three will pool various global resources to expedite the process and develop a package shared by all. If successful, it's expected to lead to the launch of the world's first affordable, mass market fuel cell electric vehicles as early as 2017. While key hardware elements would be virtually identical, the principals are quick to note that these new vehicles would be highly differentiated and separately branded offerings.

          See: 21 cars rated at 40 mpg or more

Collectively, Daimler, Ford and Nissan have amassed over 60 years of cumulative experience developing their own individual FCEVs (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles). Under terms of the agreement -- which they say also could be open to other manufacturers, most notably Nissan's existing partner, Renault -- each company will invest equally in the program. The focus will be to minimize total dollar outlay while maximizing design commonality and leveraging volume and derived efficiencies. 

In addition to advancing the design of the fuel cell itself -- which creates virtually emissions-free electricity through an electro-chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen -- the three automakers hope this program also has meaningful secondary effects. Notably, they want suppliers, policymakers and the industry get more serious about stepping up their efforts to develop hydrogen refueling stations and other infrastructure that will be required to make these new FCEVs viable alternatives to traditional passenger cars.

          See: BMW and Toyota work together on new fuel-cell package

Only last week, BMW and Toyota announced a similar kind of technology agreement that also encompassed engaging in collaborative work aimed at creating a cost-effective fuel-cell system.


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