The joint venture that spans three continents is intended to lead to the launch of the world's first affordable, mass-market hydrogen-powered vehicles within five years and help define global specifications and component standards.
Daimler (the parent company of Mercedes-Benz), Ford Motor Company and Nissan Motor Company will invest equally towards the project, reducing costs associated with engineering the technology by maximising design commonality and deriving efficiencies through economies of scale.
In a joint statement, the trio said the alliance sends a clear signal to suppliers, policy makers and the automotive industry to encourage further development of hydrogen refuelling stations and other infrastructure necessary to allow the technology to be mass-marketed.
Daimler, Ford and Nissan have already logged more than 10 million kilometres of testing in fuel cell vehicles independently and bring together more than 60 years of cumulative experience.
Daimler Group research and Mercedes-Benz Cars development chief Thomas Weber said the collaboration would speed up the introduction of hydrogen technology across the globe.
“We are convinced that fuel cell vehicles will play a central role for zero-emission mobility in the future,” Weber said.
“Thanks to the high commitment of all three partners we can put fuel cell e-mobility on a broader basis.”
Nissan executive vice president Mitsuhiko Yamashita described fuel cell vehicles as the “obvious next step” to complement today’s battery-powered electric vehicles.
Fuel cell vehicles generate electricity in an on-board fuel cell stack in an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen – stored in a high-pressure tank in the car – and oxygen from the air. Driving range is comparable to that of petrol-powered vehicles, while the only by-products are water vapour and heat.
The announcement follows the confirmation of a similar joint venture between BMW Group and Toyota Motor Corporation to co-develop a hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system for use in their next-generation vehicles.