The state of Michigan awarded a $2 million grant to GM and Honda on Tuesday, February 28th, 2023, supporting development of the companies’ joint hydrogen fuel cell facility on the south side of Detroit.
The operation, named Fuel Cell System Manufacturing LLC, is a subdivision within the existing Brownstown Battery Assembly Plant in Brownstown, Michigan. The grant will provide only a fraction of the $48.9 million required to set up the new hydrogen fuel cell operation, The Detroit News reports.
The grant was initially approved in 2017 by the Michigan Strategic Fund board of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. However, the money was not awarded immediately because at that time, Fuel Cell System Manufacturing wasn’t close enough to beginning operations to meet the grant’s requirements.
GM and Honda intended the Fuel Cell System joint venture to start producing fuel cells in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic scuttled these plans, introducing several years of delays. Today in 2023, GM and Honda have resumed development and the launch of Fuel Cell System Manufacturing operations is in the immediate future. This timing makes the project eligible for the immediate award of the $2 million, so disbursement of the funds is pending.
The global manager of economic development for GM, Candace Butler, stated that the automaker sees “fuel cells as a critical part of our all-electric future.” She added that hydrogen fuel cells are a good fit for “industries and applications that traditionally rely on diesel to meet their energy goals.” Butler also noted the $2 million grant will be useful in getting the project up and running.
Brownstown Battery Assembly Plant currently produces batteries for both the GMC Hummer EV and the Cadillac Lyriq. It also produces components for the vehicles used by Cruise, GM’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary, including production of roof modules.
As noted, GM and Honda have been working on a joint hydrogen fuel cell project in the U.S. for several years. The two companies began collaborating on development of a fuel cell system a decade ago in 2013. The General and Honda have continued to work together on fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) technology since, with GM co-developing the FCEV powertrain Honda uses in its existing and upcoming hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Today, there are only 56,000 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on the road worldwide. However, launch of the Fuel Cell System Manufacturing LLC operation could help to change that. Honda is also planning a new compact crossover FCEV nameplate, while GM intends to develop medium-duty trucks powered by a combination of batteries and its HydroTec hydrogen fuel cell technology.