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Nissan and Renault shelve fuel cell vehicle plan

Project with Daimler and Ford will now focus on electric vehicles

Nissan Motor and Renault have decided to focus on electric cars such as Nissan's Leaf, the world's top-selling electric vehicle.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Nissan Motor and Renault have decided to suspend a plan to commercialize a fuel cell vehicle that they were developing with Daimler and Ford Motor.

The project began in 2013. The automakers thought that by pooling their resources they could come up with an affordable, mass-production car.

Nissan, Renault, Daimler and Ford are to continue cooperating but shift their focus to electric cars, which appear to be on the cusp of going mainstream.

In the beginning, the European, Japanese and U.S. partners planned to develop standard components that would help all four reduce their development costs. They were determined to mass-produce a fuel cell vehicle in 2017.

That did not happen.

While the quartet continues to develop fuel-cell-powered vehicles, Nissan and Renault have decided to focus on electric cars.

Fuel cells generate electricity by harnessing the chemical reaction produced by the hydrogen in the fuel tank and atmospheric oxygen. The energy powers an electric motor that propels the car. These vehicles were once known as the ultimate eco-car. They emit no exhaust or global warming gas. But they cost a lot, and hydrogen fueling stations have not been built.

Still, Toyota Motor, the global leader in fuel cell development, plans to sell over 30,000 of these cars every year beginning in 2020.

Last month, Toyota decided to construct a new building dedicated to producing fuel-cell car components. The building will go up at the automaker's main plant in the central Japanese city of Toyoda. The plan is for it to begin operations in 2020.

Meanwhile, Ford and Daimler on Wednesday announced they would end a separate fuel cell joint venture.

Renault owns more than 43% of Nissan, which has a 15% non-voting stake in Renault. Their group, which includes Mitsubishi Motors, has set a global target of selling 14 million vehicles in 2022. Of the total, 30% is expected to be electric or hybrid vehicles.

The three companies plan to develop a common electric vehicle platform and use it to make 12 models.

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