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Mid-project data from Oak Ridge study suggests hydrogen vehicles could have up to 70% market share by 2050

Hydrogen vehicle market penetration under different scenarios. Source: Dr. David Greene. Click to enlarge.

Hydrogen vehicles (H2V, including H2 ICE, fuel cell and fuel cell plug-in hybrid vehicles) could achieve a market share ranging from 30% to 70% in 2050, according to preliminary results from a study by Dr. David Greene and colleagues at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) presented at the DOE 2012 Hydrogen and Fuel Cells and Vehicle Technologies Programs Annual Merit Review meetings in Washington this week.

The wide swing depends on achieving further technical success with the development of hydrogen vehicle technology resulting in lower costs, Greene said. H2V technology success—which includes a sharp reduction in the fuel cell cost/kW and on-board storage, as well as a public hydrogen infrastructure—results in the H2V market share of around 70%, compared to around 30% with current baseline technology scenarios.

(A scenario with no technology progress and no infrastructure results in essentially zero market share.)

The study project—which is 50% complete—is using ORNL’s Market Acceptance of Advanced Automotive Technologies (MA3T) discrete choice model, with the baseline calibrated to the US Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) 2011 reference case. The model estimates sales of 40 vehicle technologies, including conventional and hybrid ICE, plug-in hybrids, natural gas vehicles, battery-electric vehicles, and a range of hydrogen vehicles. It analyzes 1,458 consumer segments, including region, area, driver, early adopter, at home and at work charging.

So far, the team has analyzed technology status, energy markets and policies as factors likely to influence the competitiveness of hydrogen vehicles. Study of a fourth critical factor, consumer preference, is to come.

Some key parameters used in the model are:

  • Fuel cell technology baseline of $60/kW FC system, $10/kWh storage; Fuel cell+ (fuel cell success) of $25/kW, on-board storage $5/kWh by 2050.

  • Plug-in vehicle baseline of $450/kWh through 2050; Bat+ of $150/kWh by 2050, Bat20yr+ = Bat+ achieved 20 years earlier.

Among the other initial findings of the study are:

  • Low-cost batteries (Bat+) help all vehicles: H2Vs and PEVs as well as BEVs. The light duty vehicle market is big enough for both fuel cell and battery technologies to succeed.

  • The key factor in H2V success is fuel cell technology. Battery success expands the market for both H2 and ICE plug-in hybrids.

  • Given technological success, hydrogen vehicles appear to be competitive under a range of hydrogen prices. (In the excerpt from the study presented at the Review, Dr. Greene noted H2 prices ranging from $2.0/gallon of gasoline equivalent to $4.0; in a separate study presented at the Merit Review, Dr. Brian Bush of NREL computed a long-term (out to 2050) levelized delivered cost of hydrogen of $6/kg.)

  • H2V market success will vary with the price of oil, but technology advances are more important.

  • Success for both battery and fuel cell vehicles reduces light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by 55% in 2050 compared to 2010 before considering low-carbon biofuels and grid de-carbonization.

  • The subsidies required for hydrogen (fuel+infrastructure) are estimated to be about $30 billion, depending on technology status.

Initial projection of purchase probability. Source: Dr. David Greene. Click to enlarge.

The next step for Green and his colleagues is to test sensitivity to consumers’ preferences, complete the experimental design and analyze the results. An initial projection by the MA3T model for 2050, assuming successful development and cost reduction in cell fuel and battery technologies suggests that the fuel cell plug-in hybrid vehicle would have the highest probability of purchase.

The much lower battery cost implicit in that scenario would potentially lower fuel costs, Greene suggested, and save time by reducing trips to the hydrogen fuel station.


  • AN023: Sensitivity Analysis of H2-Vehicles Market Prospects, Costs and Benefits (Dr. David Greene, DOE 2012 Merit Review). The presentations will be posted in several weeks on



ROFL And if I could sell unicorn farts at $1.00/gallon then I'd bet on unicorn farts owning 70% of the market by 2050.

What a waste of digital trees to print this on.


The study finds that the subsidies required for hydrogen (fuel+infrastructure) are estimated to be about $30 billion, depending on technology status. It tells us there is no agreement on how a hydrogen refueling infrastructure should be, if not has been, developed. However, it suggests we need $30 billion.
Hydrogen may be extracted from natural gas by steam reforming or from water by electrolysis. Fundamental laws of physics expose the weakness of a hydrogen economy. Energy cannot be created, it can only be converted from one state to another, and some energy is always lost during the conversion. Hydrogen is an artificial energy carrier, and can never compete with its own energy source, either natural gas or electricity, in a sustainable future. Why spend $30 billion on a unknown status and known facts.


Um DUH... all its saying is given what we have now fuel cell cars/trucks are going to gain 30% market share... and we already knew that. Given even modest new tech we can fairly much count on it will be bigger... again DUH. That is why all that car and truck companies are working on fuel cell tech or keeping tabs on it.


"all its saying is given what we have now fuel cell cars/trucks are going to gain 30% market share"

That is a very big assumption on your part and not at all obvious. NG is more likely to take that 30% market share...just more practical and easier to implement than trying to build the infrastructure for H2 and then steam reforming the NG into H2.


ng isnt all that much better co2 wise then gasoline so as the co2 regs tighten ng cars will also go away.


Whoever decided to spend taxpayer money projecting 40 years ahead should be fired. Projecting even five years ahead is dubious.


What DaveD said.  It's far simpler AND likely more efficient to make engines that run on NG than to build a whole new technology and associated infrastructure for H2, then reform NG at a net loss in energy to make H2.

Batteries are the wild card.  If we get anything like the SiO-coated Si SWNT for Li-ion batteries, the charging rate of 20C eliminates the advantage of liquid and gaseous fuels.


ng isnt all that much better co2 wise then gasoline so as the co2 regs tighten ng cars will also go away.

That's false. A CNG vehicle held title of "the greenest car in the U.S." for 8 years and only lost the title to an EV.


The catch here is you have to have a dedicated NG car. That way you can use NG's 130 octane rating in a high compression engine for the best effect. Do that and you can over come NG's lower energy content. Using NG in a bi-fuel engine, one that is also burning gasoline, means you lose the advantage of higher compression and are still hit by NG lower energy content.

Roger Pham

The Hydrogen economy would only make economic sense if H2 is produced from renewable energy.

With the earth getting noticeably warmer every year, with economic destruction of climate change and rising sea level, the time will come when enough people will realize that something must be done about the escalating CO2 level in the atmosphere.

The switch to all renewable energy will happen, and sooner than most of us realize, because renewable energy is getting cheaper and cheaper real fast, because sun light and wind are free. There will be a need to store excess renewable energy in the springs and falls to be used in the winters. That'll be when H2 economy will come in handy. High-voltage power lines will transmitt excess electricity from renewable energy from one region to another,to be stored locally by means of H2 made from electrolysis of water.

With increasing unemployment world-wide due to computerization and job outsourcing, many governments world-wide will connect the dots between cheap renewable energy, climate change, and job creation and start deployment of renewable energy collectors and H2 and BEV infrastructures. Fossil-fuels will be gradually phased out, just like we are consuming less and less tobacco these days, by gradually increasing taxes on fossil fuels.

When one considers all the above, then the prediction of H2-Vehicles taking 30-70% market share by 2050 is very reasonable. The rest of non-H2-vehicles will likely be BEV's. CNG vehicles will only be a transitional step, and will be phased out, due to climate change. The younger generations are increasingly aware of the harm of rising CO2 level, learning from schools and the mass media. When they will be mature enough to be in charge, we will see the Green Economy happening fast. Teach the Children well! The older generations can't be expected to learn much.


We can hope.
OTOH I had the same ideas 30 years ago.


by 2050, H2 will still be made from reforming methane.. and in the process emitting just as much CO2.

If you are going to have a compressed gas powered vehicle then just use methane directly, or what is more likely is synthetic liquid fuel made from methane.. either fossil or renewable methane. With high capacity batteries, quick charging and roadbed wireless power transmission there is just no need for hydrogen.

Can a jet run efficiently on methanol?


We expect many technological advances that will make hydrogen or batteries competitive.

On the other hand, technological advances in atmospheric carbon sequestration are not so hard to imagine either.
If atmospheric carbon sequestration can be made cheap enough, it may well be that we keep on running and flying on natural gas or liquid fuels for centuries, while keeping CO2 down. (at some point - maybe even before 2050 - these fuels may be synthetically made from captured CO2 and renewable H2)

This may even be a very green option, as it not only lowers our net CO2 emission, but gives us the industrial capacity to set the atmospheric CO2 at 'any desired level'.


"Plug-in vehicle baseline of $450/kWh through 2050"

Any shred of credibility was lost after this.

Roger Pham

@Herm and Alain,
Why continue to use fossil fuels when renewable-energy H2 will become cost-competitive? You see, fossil fuels prices will go up due to escalating demands, while solar and wind energy will become cheaper and cheaper, the same way your flat-panel TV's have come down in price ten folds in about a decade. Eventually, the two will intersect, and renewable-energy H2 will beat fossil fuels in prices.

The USA is outlawing new coal-fire power plants by requiring new power plants to emit at or below 1000 lbs of CO2 per MWh. The CHinese are doing similar measures to curb coal consumption while installing solar and wind collectors at rapid pace. When NG will be used for power generation instead of coal in the both the US and China and Japan and elsewhere in the world the next few decades, what will happen to the price of NG?

Don't under-estimate the power of global warming to phase out the use of low-cost CO2-emitting power generation. CO2 sequestration will be significantly more expensive and will not be cost-competitive with renewable energy electricity and H2 in the future!

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