The total number of hydrogen-powered passenger vehicles on the road amounts to approximately 56,000 units, according to a study released in February 2023. Out of these, 30,000 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (FCEVs) were sold in 2021 and 2022, or roughly 54 percent, which the study suggests accelerating demand for these vehicles.
The FCEV study from Information Trends notes European and Asian countries have been investing more strongly in hydrogen fuel cell technology and infrastructure. Meanwhile, adoption is extremely slow in the U.S., except in California, largely because the federal government appears uninterested in funding the technology.
The two major nameplates currently using hydrogen tech are the Hyundai Nexo and the Toyota Mirai. The Mirai is built as a rear-wheel drive sedan with a hydrogen powertrain capable of developing 182 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. The Nexo is a crossover with a motor rated at 161 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque.
GM has no production hydrogen vehicles in its lineup, but has been working on related development projects for some time, including its HydroTec hydrogen fuel cell technology. The General has multiple partnerships with different companies to work on various elements of this alternative fuel propulsion system.
GM’s HydroTec hydrogen fuel cell technology is potentially adaptable to many uses across passenger and commercial vehicle development. The U.S. military also appears to have some interest in hydrogen fuel combat vehicles.
Back in 2013, GM operated a test fleet of 119 Chevy Equinox hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Together, these cars accumulated at least three million miles of test driving. Partnership between GM and Honda was already in the works, with a planned 2020 arrival date for a jointly developed hydrogen FCEV that never came to fruition.
More recently, GM and Honda collaborated to develop the hydrogen FCEV powertrain Honda is now about to use in some upcoming vehicles. Honda says it intends to develop an as-yet unnamed hydrogen fuel cell compact crossover featuring a hybrid hydrogen and plug-in electric powertrain.
Thanks to this plug-in hybrid design, the Honda crossover will be able to use battery power for short-range, local trips and switch to hydrogen for longer journeys. The new vehicle will be based on the 2023 Honda CR-V and will be a competitor to the Chevy Equinox EV.
The hybrid plug-in hydrogen fuel cell powertrain in Honda’s upcoming crossover strongly resembles similar technology GM is currently developing. The General is working on a battery-supplemented hydrogen powertrain for its medium-duty trucks which is expected to be available by 2026. GM CEO Mary Barra said as early as 2021 that future GM medium-duty trucks would feature GM hydrogen fuel cell technology.