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GM, Honda Will Partner on Fuel-Cell Powertrain

General Motors Co. and Honda Motor Corp. have agreed to co-develop next-generation fuel-cell powertrain and hydrogen storage technology that would be ready for both companies to use by 2020.

The partnership is the latest formed among carmakers this year. In January BMW and Toyota launched a joint project to develop a common fuel-cell system. A few days later Ford, Daimler and Nissan announced their own alliance to develop mass-market fuel-cell vehicles as early as 2017.

A report in May by Navigant Consulting Inc. predicts that worldwide sales of fuel cell-powered cars, buses and scooters will surge from 1,000 units in 2015 to 2 million by 2030.

GM and Honda have separately produced small test fleets of fuel cell-powered vehicles already. Honda introduced the FCX sedan in 2002 and expects to unveil that model’s successor, the FCX Clarity, in 2015.

GM says its Project Driveway program has used 119 hydrogen-powered test vehicles to rack up nearly 3 million miles of driving on public roads over the past six years.

Carmakers have been testing fuel-cell systems for decades. The technology offers driving range and refueling speeds comparable to gasoline-fueled vehicles. But cost remains orders of magnitude too high for mass production. Progress in developing a hydrogen refueling infrastructure has been slow.