Intelligent Energy and Suzuki are to establish a joint venture company, SMILE FC System Corporation (SMILE FC), for developing and manufacturing fuel cell systems. Suzuki has already been working with Intelligent Energy for six years in the development and testing of the Crosscage and Burgman Fuel Cell Maxiscooter, the latter already approved for European roads. An extensive display of the technology in cutaway form was one of the highlights of December's 2011 Tokyo Motor Show.
It appears that the joint venture will produce at least one car and one motorcycle.
The press release reads thus: "In order to officially develop and manufacture one of the next generation environmental vehicles, a motorcycle and an automobile equipped with fuel cell systems, Suzuki will establish a joint venture company, SMILE FC, in February 2012, for developing and manufacturing fuel cell system with IEH, and will speed-up to commercialize a product by combining the fuel cell development technology of IE, and control and mass-production technologies of Suzuki."
The release also indicates that both companies think the Hydrogen Economy is far from dead and intends to become one of the key facilitators of the commercialization: "Beginning with the air-cooled fuel cell system, which can be characterized with its lightness, compactness, and potential for cost reduction, Suzuki and IE, with SMILE FC at the core, will work on developing mass-production technology and manufacturing of fuel cells, as well as exploiting the global supply chain of fuel cell parts, and familiarizing the fuel cell vehicles."
Given the rash of publicity that has been mounting around the already-certified, ready-to-go (Suzuki was granted Whole Vehicle Type Approval in March 2011 for the Burgman) Burgman FC scooter, it will almost certainly be the new company's first commercial product.
Intelligent Energy hit the news in 2005 when it showed a small fuel cell motorcycle it called the ENV.
Within a year, it was working alongside Suzuki and the first visible sign of the collaboration was the Crosscage fuel cell motorcycle first shown at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show.
For a while there in 2008, it seemed we'd get the Crosscage in showrooms first.
The 41st Tokyo Motor Show in October 2009 brought the fuel cell version of the company's maxi-scooter, and the Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter was born.
The Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter uses an air-cooled, single polymer-electrolyte type fuel cell made by Intelligent Energy using hydrogen fuel stored in a high-pressure (70MPa) tank within the frame.
Combining the scooter's lithium-ion battery and the power gleaned from a full tank of hydrogen via the fuel cell, the Burgman has a range of 350km per tank.
This same advantage - a limitless range - was the biggest drawcard of Suzuki's Mio Electric wheelchair FCV which debuted at Tokyo Motor Show in 2009, along with a fuel cell car using a GM fuel cell. Obviously, the automotive fuel cell relationship with IE will now see more of a focus on auto FC development given that the agreement stipulates such a vehicle.