General Motors and Toyota Motor Corp. have signed a joint agreement with ExxonMobil Corp to develop a clean hydrocarbon fuel that will power both traditional internal combustion engines and fuel cells by the end of the decade.
While GM and Toyota are testing fuel cell technologies developed by both companies, they plan to share test results and ultimately select the best ideas.
Shinichi Kato, Toyota's executive vice president, said the companies decided on this route because of questions about the suitability of methanol, which other automakers are considering.
"Methanol will ultimately require a whole new infrastructure, and there are safety risks over toxicity," he said. "We have to have a system which is affordable to the consumer and one which can tap into a fuel supply system which is already in place."
Larry Burns, GM vice president for research and development and planning, said the two companies agreed that hydrogen was the only fuel with the potential to significantly increase vehicle efficiency and reduce emissions.
The companies also recognize that any transition from conventional to advanced propulsion vehicles must take into account the millions of gasoline engines already in existence.