TOKYO -- Honda Motor Co. began leasing its Clarity hydrogen fuel cell vehicle last week in Japan. Engineers from Honda and General Motors already are outlining their targets for a successor, with a powerplant to be jointly developed, set to debut about 2020.
The Clarity is significant not so much for its volume, expected to be low, but for its role as a springboard to the next car.
"We are bringing all experience to the table, which means all that Honda learned from the Clarity fuel cell," Matthias Bork, chief engineer for fuel cell propulsion systems at GM, told Automotive News during a fuel cell conference here.
"It's a good steppingstone," he said of the Honda five-seat fuel cell sedan, which began leasing in Japan on Thursday, March 10.
The partners are building targets for the 2020 vehicle's fuel cell system around the specifications of GM's second-generation, or Gen 2, system.
Top priorities: Boost volume and cut costs.
"There are big merits to combining to increase volume," Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo said at the Clarity's launch.
More volume should be easy. Mass volume won't.
Honda produced only 80 units of its previous fuel cell car, the FCX Clarity manufactured from 2008-14. GM's latest entry, a fuel cell version of the Equinox crossover introduced in 2007, mustered a test fleet of just 118 vehicles.
"No matter what technology you have, at these kinds of volumes costs are going to be extremely high," said Toshihiro Mibe, Honda's operating officer in charge of powertrains.