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SAE technical experts: fuel cell technology has advanced significantly, FC vehicle production has begun, further cost reductions & infrastructure development required

Wrapping up the track on the commercialization of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen infrastructure held at the 2016 SAE World Congress (earlier post), a panel of technical experts agreed that while significant progress has been made with the technology, and while the first generation of consumer-available fuel cell vehicles is now being sold in parts of the US, there are still challenges to overcome with respect to the cost of the technology and the build-out of a supporting hydrogen refueling infrastructure.

The panel, moderated by Jesse Schneider, BMW, included Takashi Moriya, Senior Chief Engineer at Honda R&D; Dr. Will James, Manager, Safety, Codes, and Standards at the US Department of Energy (DOE); and Dr. Ralph Clague, Head of Motive Systems and Architecture, Intelligent Energy.

Honda. Takashi Moriya, Senior Chief Engineer at Honda R&D, re-iterated Honda’s strategic focus on electrification as the main pathway toward reducing greenhouse gases, and shift to renewable sources of energy. For Honda on the vehicle side, that strategy encompasses ongoing development of more efficient hybrids, as well as battery-electric and fuel cell vehicles. Honda has set a target of two-thirds of its overall unit sales coming from plug-in hybrid/hybrid vehicles and zero emission vehicles (BEVs and FCVs) by around 2030. (Earlier post.)

Like Toyota, Hyundai, GM (Honda’s partner in future fuel cell development), and other OEMs, Honda sees a role for both battery-electric as well as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, depending upon application. Honda also sees the possibility of a “hydrogen-powered society” based on renewable energy and renewable-energy-generated hydrogen. Accordingly, Honda has not only launched FCVs that use hydrogen, but has also developed compact hydrogen stations that generate hydrogen, and external power output devices that get connected to FCVs.

Honda’s work on hydrogen-powered vehicles stretches back to the 1980s, when it began basic research on fuel cells, and engaged in research and development of FCVs. Honda’s current state-of-the-art vehicle is the Clarity Fuel Cell, currently available in Japan, and to be available in the US and Europe by the end of the year. (Earlier post).

Employing original Honda technologies, the fuel cell stack for this model was downsized by 33% compared to the previous version of the fuel cell stack yet delivers 130 kW of output, with an output density of 3.1 kW/L–approximately a 60% improvement. The fuel cell powertrain was made as compact as a Honda 3.5L V6 engine, enabling it to be packaged under the hood of a sedan-type vehicle for the first time.

Honda2   Honda2

Earlier this year, Toshihiro Mibe, Senior Managing Officer and Director, Honda R&D Co. observed that:

Developing FCVs is not enough to speed up the realization of a hydrogen society. Without hydrogen stations, FCVs do not sell. Without more FCVs on the road, the number of hydrogen stations cannot grow. The only way to solve this chicken-and-the-egg problem was to create our own hydrogen for FCV use, which was realized by joint-development with Iwatani Corporation.

Shs-1   Shs-1

During the SAE World Congress panel, Moriya reinforced that concerted effort among related industries /companies; the establishment of global standards; and the creation of a hydrogen refueling infrastructure are also required if FCVs are to be marketed as scheduled.

Moriya also noted that Honda is focusing on continuous cost reduction and quality control to further widespread commercialization of the fuel cell vehicle technology. To that end, Honda is partnering with GM on next-generation development, with a focus on 2020.


Intelligent Energy. While legislation has been a strong technology driver to date, the direct customer benefit that legislation-related technologies bring are limited, said Ralph Clague of Intelligent Energy, a UK-based developer and manufacturer of fuel cells.

Accordingly, to offer a product with a competitive value proposition, the industry focus has shifted to increasing the value of the product for the end user from a total cost of ownership (TCO) perspective. Cost, productivity, efficiency and fuel economy now offer the highest focus for technology investment, he said.

Intelligent Energy showed the progress of fuel cell shipments in the UK, and the prognosis of the “ramp up” for the automotive fuel cell market until 2020 (see diagram). The FC market is slated to increase at a 40% per annum rate including the Asian Pacific, North American and US Market.


Intelligent Energy also highlighted their fuel cell range extender project with multiple collaborators which is planned to have demonstration units by 2017 targeting 2018 for the first level of production.


US Department of Energy (DOE). The US Department of Energy (DOE) has been supporting the development of hydrogen and fuel cell technology as part of the US effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to shift to a cleaner set of energy sources and to reduce reliance on imported petroleum. Dr. James noted that considerable progress has been made toward achieving the DOE cost targets, although challenges, of course, remain.

Doe1   Doe1

In addition to emphasizing the importance of the ongoing development of the hydrogen refueling infrastructure, James also touched on the critical role that global standards and codes have in laying the groundwork for widespread commercialization of the technology. The Safety Codes and Standards programs at DOE support and facilitate the development and promulgation of essential codes and standards to enable widespread deployment and market entry of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and completion of all essential domestic and international regulations, codes and standards (RCS). The DOE also conducts R&D to provide critical data and information needed to define requirements in developing codes and standards.

Direct US DOE supports has saved 3–5 years in the development of relevant Codes and Standards, Dr. James said.


James also indicated the DOE was instrumental in forming the US Hydrogen Infrastructure, Public/Private Partnership called H2USA which has more than 45 Partners in 2015. He indicated this group is working on a variety of topics from Market Support & Acceleration, to Locations Roadmap (currently focused on assisting in the Northeastern US States), Financing Infrastructure and the Hydrogen Fueling Station Specification Group.


Jesse Schneider said that in addition to the 8 automakers teaming up for fuel cell vehicle commercialization (GM/Honda; BMW/Toyota; Daimler/Ford/Nissan; and Hyundai), work on infrastructures is underway in three continents: Asia/ Japan; North America/US and Europe. In 2016, each of these areas plans to have more than 50 stations and 100s more within the next 5 years. These stations are being helped to be standardized with the ISO Technical Specification 19880-1 which is to be published in 2016, giving a baseline of safety and performance.


Questions were raised at the panel related to driving range and storage for electric and fuel cell vehicles. Schneider showed a “Standards” comparison between SAE J2601 (Hydrogen Fueling) and SAE J1772 (Conductive Charging) vs. electrical storage with FCEVs and BEVs. The main difference he stated is charging time and storage of electrical energy on the vehicle. From the table below (with the current state of the art) Fuel Cell Vehicle Storage ranges is about 100kW Hours equivalent vs. 30–60 kWh for Battery Electric Vehicles for a C-Segment vehicle. Charging Time is in about 5 minutes to achieve 500km (300 miles) with hydrogen vs. about an hour + with a high power fast charger or overnight with a home charger to achieve the same range.


Although there are clear advantages to the fuel cell and hydrogen technology and fuel cell technology has advanced significantly to the point where the first vehicle production has started, further cost reduction and infrastructure development—with industry and government working together—is required to realize success in the market, according to the panel.



Very interesting comparative data on FCs versus batteries and FCEVs versus BEVs.

If the current high FC development rate keeps up, the next generation (by 2020 or so) will see major changes such as:

1) much lower FC cost of $40/KW
2) much lower H2 price of $4gge
3) much lower H2 storage cost of $10/kWh.

Future 100+ KW FCs will fit in the same place as current ICEs.

Good news for affordable near future FCEVs?


Those are some very heavily tinted rose-colored glasses you're wearing, Harvey.

H2 at $4gge is a 2020 *target*. Reality is $13 to $16 in the chart, and $13.50 to $16.50 at the pump.

I think I'm beginning to understand how you maintain your point of view. Just put everything through a reality distortion filter before storing it in memory. Regurgitate the Harvey view, even on the same page as expert authorities who are citing reality.

Hope nobody notices, I guess.


That was too harsh. I retract, and apologize, Harvey.

Restated: 100 H2 stations planned for 2020 leave little opportunity to hit the $4gge target. In a $2 gallon gasoline and $1gge elecrric world, the H2 transportation industry has a difficult road ahead.



Exactly how did you become so ill-mannered?

Critics are fine, the owner, presumably, of one site trolling every hydrogen or fuel cell post on another site is simply nauseating.

If you want to post then do so under your own name, instead of trying for some fake credence which may delude people who are unfamiliar with your posts into the delusion that you have some idea what you are talking about.

Henrik here is a fervent supporter of Tesla, and critic of fuel cells.

I have never accused him of being a troll, because he isn't.

He is a critic.

You however are not only a troll, but post under a corporate identity. so are perhaps the first example of one site trolling another.



Davemart, it is absolutely hilarious to see you try so hard to be nasty that you've taken to imitating the style of the US's most reviled politician.

Go ahead and keep referring to me as Jay. It only confirms how clueless you are with every post.



So no answer at all as to your repeatedly posting under the corporate id of another site almost exclusively on threads relating to hydrogen and fuel cells?

If you are not Jay, have you got the guts to stand up as a person, and declare your identity?

I am who I am.

You presumably, and possibly with reason, are apparently ashamed to be so.


@ Jay or whatever his name is:

I'm not against affordable BEVs with their slow charge (30+ minutes), short good weather range (under 350 miles), if I could use my wife's HEV (1) for winter months and (2) for long trips and (3) have access to overnight charging facilities.

Those three (3) ifs are not always available nor acceptable. No. 3 is a flat NO for 5+ years to come, unless we change place for at least +$25K to +$50K for an equivalent unit.

May be one short range BEV + one HEV or FCEV versus our current HEVs would (eventually) be an acceptable compromise for a few days or until the BEV's batteries fall out of charge.

The real reality check is that a BEV would be unusable most of the time.

Another compromise would be an extended e-range PHEV running as an ICEV most of the time. At least, it would be usable?

For now, we will keep our excellent Toyota HEVs!


This is such a moot point , electrifying the drive train is inevitable. The storage mechanisms have inherent weaknesses.
The article is showing the technical cost improvements for compressed gas has come a long way. If the cost at the pump stays above $10/kg then the tech will move toward natural gas.
But Hydrogen PEM fuel cells get way more miles out of the kilogram of fuel then batteries or petro. Tesla has to subsidize the quick charging to drive sales, Honda and Toyota are doing the same with hydrogen gas stations. until GM makes a malibu that runs on fuel cell there wont be the critical mass needed to drive prices down. GM is already worried that their fuel cells are dated before even selling. The yearly improvements in fuel cells is amazing, it just takes 5 years to get fromn the lab to the road. Toyota decided to build it they drive it and they are sold out.


I understand a BEV is not for you, Harvey. And truly, if you ever do get H2 stations in your area and get that Mirai, many happy miles.

But when such an esteemed panel as referenced in the OP says the the Northeast US will have all of 15 stations and front-runner California has only 100 stations planned until 2020, we can probably safely conclude that the industry will not meet, let alone exceed, the "high volume" projected price of $5 to $7.50 gge. That $4 price is so distant it's a chimera, or maybe better said and more fittingly, a mirage. how do you look at those slides and come to any other conclusion? These are the experts building this stuff.

Anyway, all the best. Btw, my name is not Jay. Davemart just likes to shriek occasionally and he thinks that is some kind of insult.


@ e-c-i-c:

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against BEVs per se, as one of the best long term solution. Specially with our very cheap abundant clean Hydro electricity.

I will probably change my appreciation when improved 5-5-5 or 10-10-10 batteries are available, sometime between 2030 to 2035 or when overnight charging facilities are approved and available in our building internal garages.

For now, BEVs and/or PHEVs are not acceptable choices for us. It is also too early for FCEVs due to lack of public H2 stations in our region.

Roger Pham

Thanks to Greencarcongress for this excellent and detailed coverage of very encouraging advancements in FC and H2 techs.

Hopefully, all this techs will be just in the nick of time to keep GW to within 2 degree C.
This will happen when the Solar and Wind energy investors will able to sell ALL grid excess electricity for making high-value H2 for transportation, thereby encourage much faster investments into Solar and Wind energy.

The near-future Hydrogen economy when the bulk of the Hydrogen will be made from grid EXCESS Solar and Wind electricity now appears to be the most viable solution for keeping Global Warming to within 2 degree C, to ensure the survival of our species and our biosphere.

A lot is at stakes here, folks. All your supports are encouraged.

David Freeman

In my opinion, low temperature hydrogen PEM fuel cells are not the right approach. They are easily poisoned by CO and sulfur, and unable to process any fuels other than pure dry hydrogen.

High temperature PEM fuel cells do not require platinum catalysts or humidification, vastly simplifying system design. Temperatures are 150-250 C, so metals are required in construction rather than plastics, but within bounds for all common automotive materials (aluminum and steel). Even better, they are resistant to CO poisoning. This really opens up the opportunity to avoid hydrogen altogether and use liquid fuels (LNG, petrol, diesel, ammonia) instead of hydrogen.

What's the downside? You need a drivetrain architecture more like the Volt than the Prius, since you need margin for warming up the fuel cells. This does, however, significantly reduce the complexity of system design since the fuel cell itself just has to provide average power to the vehicle (e.g., 55kW peak instead of 150kW). In cold-weather situations, running the fuel cell at 'idle' could provide cabin heating for a Volt-architecture vehicle.

Personally, I think the fascination with hydrogen is really holding up fuel cell progress in general. The ability to use liquid fuels would at least drive acceptance of fuel cells in general. I think it would basically kill a hydrogen future in favor of bio- and syn-fuels, though. I guess you could always sell hydrogen as 'improving performance', though well-to-wheels efficiency would continue to be horrific.


Every now and then the hydrogen folks make another run at trying to sell snake oil as medicine. The thing to remember is H2 is the oil company's answer to continuing control over the energy markets.
Watch the following, it's been around for awhile and is still useful to review in case your resolve thins from the propaganda:



Honda publicly recognizes the chicken/egg problem of H2... a year after Tesla has coast-to-coast Supercharger coverage in the USA.

California plans 100 H2 stations... by 2020.

This is the epitome of "too little, too late".

Account Deleted

What came first-the gasoline pump or the car? Gasoline was around since the first days of the petroleum industry, at first just a waste product. It turned out to be a perfect fuel of the first horseless carriages. The Electric Infrastructure was hardly existent at the turn of the century, most people still used kerosene lamps, and of course batteries were terrible (except to help the later for electric starters in automobiles).
Maybe Hydrogen will be like the early Twentieth Century Electric Industry. Missing the transportation sector but finding other uses, possibly for Distributed Electric Energy Storage (where even the waste heat can be used).
A good example could be the Toshiba H2One System, a Hydrogen Based Energy Supply System that is now providing renewable electricity all year long to a Kyushu Resort Hotel (http://toshiba-ttda.com/2016/03/14/toshiba-h2one-hydrogen-based-autonomous-energy-supply-system-now-providing-power-to-a-kyushu-resort-hotel/).

Roger Pham

Converting H2 into liquid fuels like Methanol and hydrocarbon would make it easier to export energy. Saudi Arabia with huge desert land bordering the sea can setup solar PV to make H2 which can then be combined with CO2 from seawater to make methanol for export via oil tankers. At the destination, the methanol can be converted back into H2 via a new and more efficient method using ruthenium catalyst, or the methanol can be used directly in combustion gas turbines for power generation backup.

Ammonia is too toxic for mass utilization should a leak occur.

Liquid hydrocarbon has pollution problem like oil spills, oil leak and oil or gasoline leaching to the soil and water table with tank corrosion.

Hydrogen gas is the cleanest of all fuels and will solve all associated environmental pollution due to petroleum. Hydrogen gas can flow in pipelines for ground transportation.

If high-temperature FC is more practical than current PEM-FC tech, then why the industry and the DOE not promoting it?

It doesn't matter who will produce and sell H2 from renewable energy. Everyone will benefit from it. Oil has been affordable and widely available for most of the time, except during supply disruption (which we won't have when H2 will be produced from local solar and wind energy), so the oil industry has been doing a good job.

It will not be too late, as long as there are still one billion petrol vehicles on the road and only 1-2 million plug-in EV's. FCEV's are to replace petrol vehicles and not to replace plug-in EV's.


I simply do not get this. They keep predicting that some fundamental change is going to happen and suddenly H2 will be viable "in 5 years". Hey, at least they cut it down from the perpetual 10 years away.

But seriously, Tesla alone will have over 1,000 public fast charging stations by the end of 2016. Suddenly the Germans are waking up that they're in trouble for ignoring the Tesla threat and have a long list of PHEVs and BEVs coming out as well as GM with the Bolt and Honda is even admitting that they have a competitive EV/PHEV coming out on the Clarity platform.

Yet the H2 folks are once again trotting out best case scenarios comparing 2016 BEV tech to something they hope/pray will be here in 2020 and even then...we're talking about 100-150 H2 stations? A few thousand HFCVs against well over a million BEVs by that point?

This is a strange discussion.

What is the purpose? If you need the extended range, you can use a cheap PHEV today.


It's worse than that, DaveD.  The nearest Supercharger to me used to be 160 miles away; now it's 50 miles.  Yet there still isn't a single public H2 station in the entire state of Michigan.

There are still some issues with maintenance of public EV chargers around here, but I suspect that won't be an issue when it becomes important to attracting customers.

David Freeman

@Roger Pham
Syn-fuels are definitely an option, though I think the most efficient processes won't have an intermediate H stage. I don't think there's a real reason to convert syn-fuels into hydrogen before fueling a vehicle. Use advanced reactors/processors at the point of use.

Ammonia isn't that much more toxic than gasoline and is widely used on farms in the mid-West. I agree that it's unlikely to achieve retail acceptance as-is, but there are ammonia compounds that could be used. Ammonia dissociates relatively quickly in the environment.

Hydrogen volumetric density is incredibly low. Liquified hydrogen is 70kg/m^3, compared to LNG at 660kg/m^3. It's annoying to handle and store, requires heavy high-pressure or cryogenic tanks. Alternative storage remains fairly low density.

HT-PEM FC's are _slow_. Development of the FC was supposed to replace the ICE, not simply act as a range extender for an electric vehicle. This led to huge amounts of resources dumped into things like making FC's extremely responsive. The first available membranes were low-temperature only. That attitude seems to have been ingrained in FC development - the FC cabal at GM was against the Volt, for example (probably because it reduces engine use by 80%, making the choice of generator almost irrelevant). Now with the sunk costs in LT-PEM, who wants to repeat that work with HT-PEM's? I think the other piece of it is that hydrogen is, after all, the most 'green' fuel out there (disregarding well-to-wheels efficiency). Who wants to use yucky gasoline with their super-green-and-clean fuel cell?

I think what will happen in the end is that most cars will be BEV or EREV with very limited FC penetration (if any). SOFC fuel cells will be used for long-range heavy travel, reforming liquid fuels internally (LNG/CNG, synfuels, biodiesel).

Fuel cells are 5 years too late. By the time the first reasonable FC car is introduced (ignoring fueling concerns), everyone will know what a Tesla is. The idea of plugging in your car like a phone won't sound quite so crazy, and you'll already have Level 2 charging stations popping up everywhere like mushrooms. With the minimum cost of a hydrogen fueling station at $2 million and $20,000 for a Level 2 charging stations, there's no competition. This isn't about capacity, but about _visibility_.

David Freeman


I should clarify what I mean by 'slow'. It takes several minutes for HT_PEM FC's to warm-up, so without a large battery, you can't just get in the car and go.


Oh look, Ford is going to get into the 200+ mile BEV game too according to CEO Mark Fields during an investor call today where he said "they want to be among the leaders in that market".

Yet another big player getting into the game. How long till Toyota fesses up???


The sky is falling. FCVs may actually become a reality if developers continue to move up on the learning curve. There will be sleepless nights for card carrying members of the BEV Party.

Roger Pham

@David Freeman,
No matter how cheap automotive battery will get, BEV's and PHEV's will still not be in direct competition with FCEV's. Many people don't have access to charging receptacle where they park, while other people don't want to have to plug in daily.

FCEV's will grow rapidly in number when the oil companies are seeing that Plug-in EV's (PEV's) are taking away their business, forcing them to invest their $Trillion cash reserve into H2 fueling stations. The coming economic battle by the oil companies against the grow of PEV's will be exciting to see!

With low-cost FC and low-cost and widely available H2 coming in the next several years, we will see people choosing FCEV's over ICEV's (Engine Vehicles) for the cleanliness, comfort, and energy security that FCEV's can offer. Those people who can plug-in daily and don't mind doing so will continue to buy PEV's, but, by then, they will be a minority and not a majority.
FCEV's will offer convenient quick fill-up for over 300-mi range just like before, no need to change habit, so will become more popular than PEV's that require plug-in daily and longer wait time for "fast charging".

Why not liquid hydrocarbon (LHC), you say?
ZEV-mandate states are requiring growing numbers of Zero-Emission Vehicles, which will rule out combustion engine.
High-temp FC that can use LHC direct are too expensive and too bulky for mobile application.


Roger, as a PEV owner I can testify that you have it backwards:  drivers will want to be plugged in ALL THE TIME they're parked.  This would go double if they were getting compensated for grid services that their vehicles were providing (down-regulation).

It's not difficult and it's beneficial.  Why would anyone NOT want to do it?


Oil companies other than Shell have shown very little willingness to invest in hydrogen, for good reason (they are certainly in the best position to understand the costs and logistic implications).

It's a bit like comparing messaging by pneumatic tube (like we used to do at drive through banks) with modern Internet banking.

It's a competition between bits and atoms.

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