Ford, Daimler AG, and the Renault-Nissan alliance will jointly a develop a fuel-cell system for eco-conscious motoring, with the first mass-market, "affordable" model tipped for 2017. The pact - which follows a similar agreement by BMW and Toyota, also concerning fuel-cell technology - will see a single fuel-cell stack and system that will form the basis of a new range of cars from each marque, with the same underlying technology rebranded to suit different consumer segments.
Fuel-cell electric vehicles, or FCEVs, power their motors by combining hydrogen and oxygen, with water the only physical byproduct. A high-pressure tank contains the hydrogen, while oxygen is extracted from the air.
The three companies involved have, they point out, a cumulative total of over 60 years of fuel-cell vehicle development, and more than 6m miles in test driving and demonstration models. Work on the homogenized stack will take place in multiple locations around the world, while teams from the three companies will also look at collaborating on other components FCEVs will require so as to achieve further economy of scale.
Unlike the BMW-Toyota partnership, however, which will take an active role in pushing the development of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, Ford, Daimler, and Renault-Nissan instead hope that their work "sends a clear signal" to existing hydrogen network stakeholders that they need to pull their finger out and get working.
Still, that focus means today's deal may result in a workable car - or cars - before BMW and Toyota have something ready for the forecourts. The trio today claim 2017 is the earliest a fuel-cell vehicle may be on the market, whereas BMW and Toyota gave themselves a little more wiggle-room, estimating that they would have something prepared by 2020.