|Annual light-duty fuel cell vehicle sales through 2030. Source: Navigant Research. Click to enlarge.|
In a newly published research report (“Fuel Cell Vehicles”), Navigant Research forecasts that worldwide sales of light-duty fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs) will reach the 1,000 mark in 2015 and then begin a period of strong growth, surpassing 2 million vehicles annually by 2030.
The light-duty FCV market will be in a long period of supply constraints until around 2020, the report notes, breaking out only if the infrastructure is in place to meet customers’ fueling requirements. This will require a large investment from government and industry, Navigant concludes. If the infrastructure is built out, automakers will increase their production levels, which will result in major cost reductions—a “virtuous cycle” that will lead to a demand-driven market in the period after 2025.
The report examines three fuel cell passenger vehicle applications that have made the most progress toward commercialization: light duty vehicles, buses, and scooters.
Light-duty. The Navigant report names Hyundai as the clear current leader in pushing light-duty FCV commercialization. The company began small series production of its fuel cell ix35 (Tucson) sport utility vehicle (SUV) in early 2013.
The report also Western Europe has become the hub of FCV development activity, following a DOE funding shift in the US from fuel cells to battery vehicles. Although the DOE has recently signalled a resurgence of interest in FCVs (e.g., earlier post), Navigant says, the US “has much ground to cover to return to leadership status on fuel cell vehicle development. This is compounded by the challenge of deploying infrastructure in such a large geographical area.”
Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Nordic countries have less geography to cover and are forging ahead on plans to deploy hydrogen fueling stations.
The German H2Mobility initiative to deploy public refueling stations by 2015 has committed to build 50 stations (although it has not yet reached 20).
In 2012, the UK government, automakers, and hydrogen companies signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) committing to work together to support the rollout of FCVs from 2015 to 2030. The initial research indicated that the United Kingdom would require 65 stations by 2015, and the initiative is now working toward this goal.
In the Asia Pacific region, Japan and South Korea also have plans in place to expand infrastructure for 2015.
Given the length of time it takes to build a station—18 months to 3 years—it seems likely that that there will be low levels of fueling station coverage in the early days of FCV commercialization from 2015 to 2017, which will lead automakers to take a slow approach to their commercial vehicle rollouts.
One way forward is for the automakers to take on the task of establishing and operating fueling stations. This idea may sound far-fetched, but it is not too far off what is already happening in South Korea and, to a lesser degree, Japan and Germany. In South Korea, Hyundai operates four of the stations currently available for fueling, while in Germany, Daimler is partnering with Linde to deploy 20 stations.—“Fuel Cell Vehicles”
Buses. Fuel cell buses are in a pre-commercial phase; most fuel cell development in the transit sector has focused on the full-size 40-foot buses, with the fuel cell providing primary propulsion.
The first markets for fuel cell buses will be the United States, where California’s Zero Emission Bus regulation spurred development, although the mandate has been postponed, and Europe, where the European Union (EU) is funding fuel cell bus deployments. South Korea and Japan will also see development and deployment activity, but fuel cell bus deployment seems to be secondary to the fuel cell LDV roll-out.
The report also examines three emerging markets for fuel cell buses: China, India, and Brazil.
Scooters. Because the scooters use such a small amount of hydrogen, they can utilize hydrogen canisters rather than fueling dispensers. Canisters break the link between the fuel cell transportation applications and the need for large-scale hydrogen infrastructure; scooter companies can develop the transportation solution and the canisters in tandem.
Navigant Research sees this market developing slowly over the next 2 to 3 years, largely remaining in a demonstration phase or in very low-level series production. However, the company forecasts that the market will pick up after 2015, with the primary markets in Asia Pacific and Western Europe regions, where ICE scooters are popular. The North American market will not open up until after 2020, according to the company.
One of the biggest challenges to the fuel cell scooter market will be the increasing success of battery scooters. Battery electric scooters are beginning to capture significant market share and will act as a competitor to fuel cell scooters, especially in Asia Pacific where they are projected to see sales in the millions.—“Fuel Cell Vehicles”