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SAE World Congress panel highlights progress on H2 infrastructure and fuel cell vehicle commercialization

Although the SAE World Congress has been running panel sessions on fuel cell vehicle commercialization since 2005, this year was the first in which three participating automakers—Toyota, Hyundai and Honda—had fuel cell vehicles that customers can buy now or within a year. (Earlier post.) Many other OEMs are also working on development of fuel cell vehicles as well.

The PFL 799 technical executive expert panel at this year’s world Congress, chaired by Jesse Schneider (from BMW), invited those automakers as well as infrastructure leaders to discuss their progress in fuel cell technology and hydrogen infrastructure and challenges remaining. Participants included Hyundai, GM, Honda, Toyota, Linde and Air Liquide.

In the past few years 8 automakers made announcements about fuel cell electric vehicle development, many of them in conjunction with partnerships: BMW-Toyota, GM-Honda, Hyundai and Daimler-Ford-Nissan. In order to prepare for the FCEV market, there have been three main areas where hydrogen infrastructure has started to roll out: Europe (Germany, France, UK and Scandinavia), the US (mainly in California) and in Japan. Hydrogen stations are being built in these areas from industrial gas suppliers such as Linde, Air Products, Air Liquide, Iwatani and other companies such as H2 Logic, First Element and Hydrogen Frontiers are working to create these stations. These three geographical areas will each have approximately 50 stations by 2016 and plans to expand this cumulatively to a multiple hundreds by 2020 and thousands in the decade thereafter.

—Jesse Schneider

Hyundai. Opening the SAE PFL 799 Panel, Dr. Byung Ki Ahn, Director from Hyundai’s Fuel Cell Group, showed a video showing the extensive development process of the Hyundai Fuel Cell Vehicle with validation testing to show the extensive work to make the current Hyundai production ix35 (Tucson ix) FCEV (earlier post) vehicle.


In addition to Hyundai’s fuel cell bus and vehicle performance testing (durability, hot weather, cold weather) and safety (hydrogen safety and crashworthiness), Dr. Ahn also touched on activities for technology field verification, including the EU demonstration project H2moves Scandinavia (earlier post) and HyTec/HyFive (earlier post).

The Hyundai Fuel Cell also won this year’s Wards “10 best engines” which is a first for this technology.


The substantial early activity in fuel cell vehicles has led up to the broad goal of providing FCEVs to the general public in a mass scale starting from 2018; Hyundai is looking to have approximately 10,000 units in place (cumulative) in Korea alone (and more elsewhere) around 2025.

Linde. Kyle McKeown (for Robert Adler) from Linde Gases spoke on the commercialization of hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure with a focus on refueling, including its novel ionic compressor, the IC90 (Earlier post.) Recently Linde sold 28 hydrogen stations—with this compressor—for fuel cell vehicles to Japan to Iwatani Corporation. With this “small series” infrastructure commercialization, production costs were reduced 33%.


Linde is working on the deployment of 350+ kg/day stations, as well as a focus on hydrogen delivery using liquefied H2 (LH2) which has larger scalability than gaseous hydrogen stations.

Linde currently has two fueling stations open in California, with 5 more opening this year and the next.

Linde currently is operating hydrogen stations also for fuel cell forklifts, notably for the BMW South Carolina plant, where they are dispensing hydrogen—around the clock—at the rate of 700kg/day. This is planned to increase in the future.

GM. GM’s Charlie Freese, Executive Director of GM’s Fuel Cell Division, noted that GM is making substantial progress on critical fuel cell commercialization metrics. Many of the past obstacles have been largely addressed, leaving only a few focus areas.  Other than the obvious task of installing adequate refueling infrastructure, automakers are still addressing two remaining items, production cost and field durability.

The proven field durability will be addressed with time.  GM already has a fleet of vehicles that has accumulated more than 3 million miles of real world driving.  GM has translated data from these vehicles into efficient laboratory test procedures that can accelerate failure modes and reduce test time in a meaningful way.  Finally, some of the field vehicles are producing real-world, high-mileage, end-of-life data that will further strengthen GM’s durability models.

Building confidence in these accelerated durability tests will enable a faster development process and more productive learning cycles.  When the competition is 150+-year-old internal combustion engine technology, rapid learning cycles are a critical success tool for fuel cell powertrains.

In terms of cost, Freese noted, most of the expensive parts are not entirely unique to fuel cells. Further, as stack development has proceeded, precious metal costs have been reduced significantly—to the point that precious metal cost is no longer a commercial barrier, he said. (Earlier post.)

The partnership with Honda is important in this area, Freese said—helping each other shorten the time in the so-called “Valley of Death” that is associated with new technology commercialization—especially for a technology that is initially projected as low volume.  Together, GM and Honda can standardize hardware designs, leverage shared investments, and more quickly achieve scale economies, while building upon one of the strongest patent portfolios in the business.

The partnership, which entailed the cross-licensing of intellectual property and known-how, also is co-developing multiple generations of fuel cell and hydrogen storage systems. Resources are shared with a one-team approach to address cost challenges. This is an important time, because the first production vehicles are entering the market and station operators are beginning to build public station networks.  The industry must maintain momentum and make the most of its investments.

Sufficient regional refueling infrastructure & positive momentum are both critical. Only 12 of 51 existing H2 stations in the US are available for public use. The North American infrastructure is starting in California (2015: 11 public H2 stations with the next 28 funded, targeting ~ 100 H2 stations by 2020), with additional investments in Vancouver, Hawaii (4 stations) and the Northeast (1 station this year, ~ 8 by 2020).

Europe and Asia-Pacific are seeing faster growth. Germany will have ~14-16 H2 stations this year, with 50 by the end of 2016. The UK and Scandinavian countries are starting deployment this year, assisted by substantial tax benefits in Scandinavia. Japan will have 45 H2 stations this year, with ~100 in 2016. South Korea will have 11 stations this year, with ~100 in 2020. China is still TBD, but has the potential to move quickly.

Concentration of force—i.e., a strong regional focus—is important on the infrastructure side along with standardization, coordination and collaboration. Collaboration is the common critical element for hydrogen fuel cell development, he concluded.

Honda. Takashi Moriya, Senior Chief Engineer Honda R&D, talked about the new fuel cell stack in the FCV Concept (earlier post), which delivers more than 100 kW output and supports a driving range of more than 300 miles (483 km) when matched with the 10,000 psi hydrogen storage.

The stack is integrated with the drive motor, gear box, power control unit, voltage control unit, hydrogen and air supply system and turbo compressor in compact packaging underneath the hood.


Honda also addressed its development of Solar Hydrogen refueling stations (SHS2)—integrated solar cell/electrolyzer units—currently being tested in Los Angeles and Saitama Pref., Japan.

Moriya showed an overview of the hydrogen infrastructure progress worldwide. Many markets will have 50 stations (Germany, US, and Japan) by the end of 2015 and 100s by 2020. He also showed Honda’s power generation concept also using renewable energy.


Honda will launch this all-new fuel cell vehicle model based on this sequentially in Japan, the US and the EU starting by March 2016. Products resulting from the collaboration with GM would appear in 2020 or after.

Toyota. Jacquelyn Birdsall (for Justin Ward) of Toyota confirmed that Toyota was revealing much of the technical content of their Mirai Fuel Cell Vehicle with a number of papers at the World Congress on fuel cell, hydrogen storage and power electronics. (Earlier post.) The Toyota production has been sold out for the next three years also due to their current production capacity. (Earlier post.)

Innovations with Mirai included the H2 storage with innovative carbon fiber windings; power electronics synergies with Toyota Prius; innovative fuel cell separator and newly developed FC stack with an innovative integrated cell flow field structure and membrane electrode & gas diffusion layer assembly (MEGA) that achieves required performance by self-humidification.

Air Liquide. Aaron Harris from Air Liquide noted that the company has built more than 60 hydrogen stations worldwide; it plans to open 15 additional stations in the US.

Air Liquide has made a commitment to produce hydrogen for applications ranging from forklift to fuel cell electric vehicles by 2020 by combing renewable hydrogen from biogas reforming and solar to water electrolysis. In addition, they plan to use carbon capture for their reformation of natural gas to hydrogen.


Harris quoted a paper, an H2FIRST Reference Station Design Task Report (April 2015), which indicated different projections for the demand of hydrogen related to fuel cell vehicles. This indicated between 27,000 to 95,000 FCEVs would be on the road by 2025 in the US—also corroborating the goals of the ZEV mandate. This is a start of a “real” demand which the OEMs and suppliers have to prepare for.


According to Air Liquide, if FCEVs were to reach 10% of the market in the future, this would be a $120 billion/year industry.



The OEMs all pushing for fuel cell technology because electrics threaten to derail their marketing approach. The electric vehicle is very simple, really little more than an appliance once the range issue is worked out. Electrics need little maintenance and could be upgradeable by download. Current OEM marketing is based on differentiation from one model to the next; ie power, style, comfort, appearance etc and incremental improvements one year to the next. None of this works with an appliance on wheels-whereas maybe such marketing does work with a complex fuel cell vehicle.



Yep,it makes no odds whether you buy a Tesla or a Twizy, as they are almost identical.


I look at these numbers like "60 stations in the USA" and think "what consumer in their right mind would buy one of these things?  You can barely go anywhere."


The H2 industry is developing and growing at a very fast rate.

Many countries will soon have 100+ H2 stations. The cost of clean H2 is going down fast.

We will soon have 10+ FCEV makes or models on the roads.

More effective H2 storage is also developing fast.

The world is big enough to support both, BEVs and FCEVs technologies.

FCEVs have certain advantages in cold countries with enough low cost Hydro and excess Wind power where H2 could be produced at lower cost and low pollution during low electricity consumption hours (16 to 20 hours/day).

Many countries will soon have 100+ H2 stations.

Yes, 2 per US state is going to make life just as pleasant for the FCEV's driver as the gasser's.  Not.

I found an estimate that there are ~150,000 filling stations in the USA.  A reasonable lower limit for full coverage for a new fuel like H2 is 10% of that, or 15,000.  Meanwhile almost everyone already has electricity at their house.


Plug FCEVs could sell in southern California, several stations including UCI provide H2, some people like the futuristic nature.

Just because something will not replace all the cars and do everything does not mean it is not relevant. Just because something is not the most efficient does not mean it does not reduce pollution and imported oil.


Well said SJC.

There is also the comparative level of practicality.

In our cold area, we have a huge hourly surplus of clean Hydro and Wind electricity. Our government own E
electricity producer/distributer would gladly sell its unused punctual (16 to 20 hours/day) surpluses for $0.02/kWh or less to H2 producers.

H2 producers could store enough H2 to cover 24/7 needs.

Our Hydro facilities realize around CAN $3.5 B/year in profit and could easily afford to build and operate the H2 station network over a few short years.

Many more Hydro and Wind energy plants could be built on an as required basis.

A mix of BEVs and FCEVs could use the same stations to recharge their batteries or refill their H2 tanks.


PHEV-FCs with 1/3 (33 kWh or so) the normal extended range BEV (100 kWh) battery pack, and a small (15 to 25 KW) on board FC, could easily match a TESLA-S85 or S100 for range, especially during cold weather months.

It could also be very good as a taxis cab, small delivery or postal trucks etc.

Developing, installing and operating (greener lower cost) H2 stations may be a short term challenge but very doable in the mid and longer terms.

H2 stations costing $1+ M today may cost as little as $100,000 to $200,000 by 2025 or so.


No new land space would be required for H2/e-quick charge stations.

Converting 1 out of 10 or out of 20 existing gas/diesel stations would do for the first 5 to 10 years.

USA may never need 150,000 combined H2/e-quick charge stations because many electrified vehicle owners would charge their on-board batteries home, at work and in parking lots on a daily basis. Something like 20,000 to 50,000 stations may be more than enough.

In sunny areas, many electrified vehicle owners may meet their car energy needs with their own solar system and very rarely visit the commercial H2/e-quick charge stations.

The same could be said about people living in areas with lots of Hydro/Wind energy available from the grid.


They should remove all these costly subsidies toward hydrogen and battery, this is just causing hyper-inflation and poverty and messing the market, subsidies are just fraud.


@gor...what would you do the the many $$$B subsidies given to the Oil and ICEVs industries during the last 50+ years?

To wean our selves from Oil addiction and all the pollution and damages it creates, a few $T in direct and indirect subsidies are justified.

Our survival is at stake?


@gor....Clean e-energy suppliers like Québec-Hydro could install and operrate a network of combined H2-quick e-charging stations as an extention of their business.

H2 could be produced at an affordable price using very low cost excess and/or unused Hydro/Wind e-energy, specially during off-peak demand hours (16 to 18 hours/day)?

People getting a quick charge for their extended range BEVs during peak demand hours would have to pay a much higher rate.

Bob Wallace

Still takes about 3x as much electricity to drive a FCEV as it takes to drive an EV a mile.

Util that little problem is solved H2 is likely to go nowhere.

That, plus infrastructure costs, will make H2 fueling 3x or more per mile than electricity. EV drivers might get a small amount of their electricity from fast chargers during peak hours but 10% high + 90% low < 100% high.

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