BMW ActiveE available for leasing in US in Fall 2011
US DOE to award $5M for EV infrastructure; partnership with Google

Pike Research forecasts sales of fuel cell vehicles to cross 1M mark in 2020

Fuel cell light-duty vehicles sales, 2015-2020. Source: Pike Research. Click to enlarge.

According to a new report from Pike Research, commercial sales of fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) will reach the key milestone of 1 million vehicles by 2020, with a cumulative 1.2 million vehicles sold by the end of that year. The fuel cell car market is now in the ramp-up phase to commercialization, anticipated by automakers to happen around 2015.

Pike Research’s analysis indicates that, during the pre-commercialization period from 2010 to 2014, approximately 10,000 FCVs will be deployed. Following that phase, the firm forecasts that 57,000 FCVs will be sold in 2015, with sales volumes ramping to 390,000 vehicles annually by 2020. These figures represent a downgrade from Pike Research’s previous FCV forecasts published in the first quarter of 2010.

In its report, Pike notes that the fact that fuel cells for passenger cars are still being pursued at all may come as a surprise to some. Pike observes that the “stock” of FCVs has fallen during the past few years in the US and to a lesser degree in Asia Pacific and Europe, as costs have not come down as quickly as originally anticipated and initial commercialization targets have passed. And, in the meantime, battery-electric vehicles are beginning to appear in dealer showrooms.

Fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) are facing serious competition in the “zero emissions vehicle” space from pure battery electric vehicles (BEVs). BEVs have made a comeback after experiencing their own “trough of disappointment” in the late 1990s. Ironically, this state of affairs led to the initial enthusiasm over fuel cells. When the BEV market failed to take off in the late 1990s, regulators and automakers shifted their attention to fuel cells.

—“Fuel Cell Vehicles”

However, Pike says that FCVs are part of the continuum of electric drive technologies, which are projected to capture an increasingly large share of the global passenger car and transit bus markets. For the passenger car market, fuel cells offer the benefits of zero emissions operation without the range and charging limitations of pure battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

The technology promise of fuel cells has driven as estimated $4-billion investment by automakers, governments and fuel cell companies. The investments aimed to address the main technical and cost challenges to commercially viable FCVs, including: fuel cell stack and system durability; freezing and cold start capability; stack and system costs; driving range; and hydrogen fueling costs.

The Pike report notes that considerable progress in all of these areas has been made, although not at the pace originally projected. There is general agreement among the auto OEMs, Pike says, that the main barrier to fuel cells right now is not performance, but rather cost and infrastructure.

Automakers such as Toyota, Daimler, GM, Honda, and Hyundai have all said that fuel cells are a critical piece of a complete clean vehicle portfolio. With fuel cells, they see the opportunity to offer a zero-emissions car with a 300-mile range in the larger vehicle platforms.

—Pike Research senior analyst Lisa Jerram

Jerram adds that, to meet the 2015 commercialization target, automakers will need to spend the next few years validating performance and reducing costs. Early adoption is likely to be focused in Japan, Germany, and California, where there is significant fueling infrastructure planned.

Light-duty. Although fuel cell passenger cars have attracted a significant level of interest and investment, Pike believes that this market is likely to be one of the last to go fully commercial. Based on the current state of battery-electric, plug-in hybrid and conventional hybrids, Pike Research believes that light-duty fuel cell cars will not see true consumer demand until the following conditions are met:

  • Costs are significantly reduce;
  • Market conditions or regulations place a premium on zero tailpipe emissions or non-petroleum-based fuels; and
  • Hydrogen infrastructure is scaled up to meet the demands of fuel cell vehicle drivers.

Fuel cell cars will also need to experience at least one more generational iteration before the 2015 date, Pike suggests. Based on the automakers’s current projections, Pike Research expects there to be a step change in total FCV production numbers in 2015. Top fuel cell automakers will likely begin annual production of around 10,000 FCVs, Pike suggests, and estimates that production will reach just under 58,000 FCVs in 2015.

Up to 2016, Pike expects the FCV market will be only in the tens of thousands—a phase resembling that of the current controlled rollout of BEVs. Early FCV markets will include the US (mainly California and the New York area); Germany; Scandinavia; Japan (mainly Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka); South Korea (primarily around Seoul); and Shanghai, China.

Medium- and heavy-duty. Most of the activity to date in the medium- and heavy-duty sector has been related to transit buses. Development of fuel cells for medium-and heavy-duty trucks has lagged behind development for light-duty vehicles and buses.

Transit fuel cell buses offer zero emissions and low noise operation, as well as greater fuel efficiency than internal combustion engines. Pike Research’s projections are for commercially viable transit buses to follow that of light-duty vehicles (LDVs), with this market more dependent on subsidies or incentives for adoption than the car market.



FCs may become affordable for high price large SUVs, trucks and buses but there is a long way to go for affordable smaller cars.


They're forecasting sales of 1M in 9 years?
How many have they sold to date?

And I really love this part: "BEVs have made a comeback after experiencing their own “trough of disappointment” in the late 1990s. Ironically, this state of affairs led to the initial enthusiasm over fuel cells. When the BEV market failed to take off in the late 1990s, regulators and automakers shifted their attention to fuel cells."

As I remember it the BEV market wasn't allowed to take off because regulators and automakers wanted to sell FCVs so the oil companies could chain us to their H2 pumps like they did with their gasoline pumps.


From Jan 2010

According to Pike Research, which is a marketing and consulting firm in the green tech field that offers in-depth analysis on a wide variety of alternative energy subjects, there will be 2.8 million fuel cell vehicles on the roads by the year 2020.

So their forecast has fallen from 2.8 million to 1 million in the last 15 months. Maybe next year it will be 10,000 which will be more accurate!


LOL By 2020, battery tech will allow for 300-400 mile range much cheaper than any fuel cell could approach and there will already be a charging infrastructure in place.

This is very silly and defies any common sense. Fuel cells for small vehicles simply doesn't make sense and missed their window of opportunity as batteries have beaten them to market by a good 5-10 years at a much lower cost.


There might be 1 million stationary fuel cells which would be ideal for charging EV's overnight when there is no other demand for the electricity!


I can see it now
Pay me up front or overtime
at 5 dollars a gallon you would pay 12500 over 100,000 miles for 40 mpg 18000 dollar car
which is 30k

or pay 32k for the first few years or 41k after that for a volt assuming never buy gas

They are already hinting of the lithium shortage
and i am sure it will become a commodity like oil

Then the batteries will add to the price of the car
and go up in price because of demand and the leaf which should cost less than 20k will cost 30k

so we will just be paying for the gas up front


I love the way some folk here seem to think that they can by virtue of some stroke of intuition pre-empt the results of many researchers and developers in their ongoing efforts.
I simply do not know what results they will attain, and suspect that neither do those who are so confident in their prognostications.
Already it seems that some have forgotten the very exciting results from the use of carbon nanotubes in fuel cells, and simply seize on any news item to confirm their prejudices.
Whether lithium air battery/fuel cells, direct methanol fuel cells or some other technology will win we just do not know.


David Martin,

Nobody is pre-empting anything. There are dozens of studies on both sides that support whatever you want to believe.

For me, this is simply common sense. If car A can be charged/refueled in 5 minutes and has a 300+ mile range, cost $25,000 and has an existing charging infrastructure and car B can be charged/refueled in 5 minutes and has a 300+ mile range and cost $50,000 and has a very limited fueling infrastructure...then nobody ever buys car B in any large volumes.

Notice the next article they publish where Pike predicts 138MILLION electric scooters and motorcycles by 2017. Which one has the best chance at an infrastructure by 2020? Which one has the best chance of mass production bringing down costs?

You and I agree on most things, but we simply will never agree on H2 fuel cells for cars. You're correct that nobody, INCLUDING THESE PIKE GUYS OR ANYONE ELSE, has an clue what will happen. But it would take a much larger set of breakthroughs for FCVs to take the lead than it would for BEVs to take the lead.

The BEVs have the lead right now and that is accelerating quickly. Why would anyone bet money on the opposite suddenly happening? Gas prices are going up now, not in 2015. People are looking for an alternative now and in 2012 and 2013, not 2015 or 2020 when FCVs might have a chance to really hit large scale production.

We don't know what breakthroughs might come in FCVs, but they don't need any big breakthroughs to make BEVs viable for large parts of the population. Which would you bet on if it was your money?


They are already hinting of the lithium shortage
and i am sure it will become a commodity like oil

ds, I'm sorry but that is pure BS. It has been debunked here, and elsewhere, so many times I'm not even going to look up the data - google it yourself. Even with today's technology there is enough economically mineable lithium to give every family in the world a Nissan Leaf and still have batteries to spare. And if that weren't enough lithium is recyclable.


Fuel cell vehicles have less range and less infrastructure than EV's. I can say that because if you build an EV for the same cost of a FCV you can put more range into the EV and you can charge it anywhere, right now. No potential advances in FCV's will change the existing reality of effectively zero infrastructure or the laws of physics.

Aaron Turpen

Oh look. Pike Press Release has sent out another bogus "study" full of hot air so they can get in the news.

And, as expected, all of the H2 naysayers are out in droves to "debunk" it. Nevermind that the last Pike "study" about EVs was total crap as well.

Two things you people need to realize:
1) Pike gets paid to churn out press-release worthy "studies" so that those in the business can quote them and look like they have a basis for their marketing hoopla.

2) There's a reason every major vehicle manufacturer has a stake in fuel cells and it has nothing to do with Pike "Research".

Mr Bean

People pay money for such studies?


JRP3 said:
'No potential advances in FCV's will change the existing reality of effectively zero infrastructure or the laws of physics.'

Perhaps your grasp of the laws of physics and the costs of infrastructure is a tad shaky.
A direct methanol fuel cells needs infrastructure costing around the same as sticking in another petrol pump at the station.
I don't know what laws of physics you imagine that fuel cells contravene.


aj_vin i am sorry you are living in BS
scientic american had a story on it and so did cnn

I am not saying there is a shortage just like oil

but in order to increase profits it will be many many year before a cost effective BEV


I believe that DaveD is correct.

Chances are that BEVs will win the race for 2, 3, and 4-wheel light vehicles. Electricity is already available in most places while hydrogen is not. Batteries will evolve enough to have affordable long range EVs by 2020.

FCs may have a niche market for residential (equipped with solar systems) and large vehicles such as long range buses, trucks and locomotives.



So CNN did a story on the shortage of lithium?
That's funny because here's CNN doing a story that says there's NO shortage;

Even with current production rates of lithium we could replace 10% of the cars we make each year with BEVs. Now, factor in current production rates of nickel - used in Nickel Metal Hydride batteries, sodium - used in the Sodium Nickel Chloride battery and the sodium/sulfer battery, zinc, etc. and there is no problem.

Davemart did some calculations earlier:
Estimated world reserves of lithium carbonate 150m tons (Chemetall)

Usage per kwh c.1kg/kwh = 150bn kwh
Usage in Leaf 24kwh
Total no of Leaf's we could provide lithium carbonate for: 6.25bn


as this website just said
As demand for these technologies continues to increase, rare earths are rapidly becoming more expensive due to limited global supply—prices of many have increased 300-700% in the past year.

new battery technoloy takes 10 years
are only hope is the new iron air battery they are working on


In 2007 the identified lithium resources total 760,000 tons in the United States and more than 13 million tons in other countries.
As of 2009, than CNN story said the U.S. had 2.5 million tons of lithium in reserve, and there were an estimated 23 million tons in other countries. In the same year Chemetall put estimates of worldwide Lithium reserves total at about 30,000,000 tonnes Lithium. (or 150,000,000 tonnes Lithium Carbonate).

Either way identified lithium resources doubled in just two years. Demand creates higher prices, higher prices creates new ways of overcoming limited supples.


i guess that arpa just wasting money again


Just to make myself clear here. I'm not challenging your statement "i am sure it will become a commodity like oil" or that they (meaning somebody that stands to profit from it being a commodity like oil) are "hinting" at a shortage. What I'm challenging is the implication that it's a showstopping problem because the lithium shortage myth was started by the oil companies to put the brakes on developments that could hurt their own bottomline.


Well as for ARPA, the rare earths they're talking about are used in electric vehicle motors - not batteries.


Hey Davemart,

Are we stuck doing discussions over here now that ABG has screwed up their blog???

How sad, because I used to like the contrasting styles between GCC and ABG. But I'm not going to the ABG site anymore if I can't comment and not have AOL tracking me.

So now I'll try GCC and maybe

How sad.


Davemart, where is all this methanol going to come from? So to the non existent infrastructure we can add a non existent supply of fuel.

The Green Bull

The boys at Pike are really starting to lose credibility here; every chart they publish is the same. They cannot say every green tech is going to be great and wonderful and keep any credibility. Although a long time fan, I think they are starting to sell out to whoever needs a report that says their company’s market revenue is about to explode call 1 800 Pike!


World methanol production was around 14 billion gallons per year, but most of the plants in the U.S. left because of natural gas deregulation, they would rather go to countries where they could count on future prices.

You can make methanol from natural gas and you can make gasoline from methanol. You can go straight from gasification through F/T to gasoline, kerosene or diesel, but the plant costs start at about $1 billion.

If you could make a natural gas to gasoline platform that is transported on the back of a semi flatbed, you could install it above or below ground at the fueling station. The gasoline tanks would be filled continuously, no more tanker trucks on the roads, dangerous refueling nor air emissions.

The comments to this entry are closed.