The primary factors driving growth are expected to be reductions in the cost and size of fuel-cell stacks; improvements in fuel-cell output and durability; public and private efforts to expand the fuelling infrastructure and clean sources of hydrogen; improvements in electric motors, energy storage and control systems; and the application of fuel cells to economically power a wider, more varied range of vehicles, including large trucks.
While it is expected that numbers will remain relatively small when compared to vehicles fitted with conventional Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs), Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) or other hybrid vehicles, it was stated that automakers and suppliers are preparing for substantial growth in the FCV segment. Fuel cell demand in light vehicles is forecast to increase its momentum with the greatest opportunities initially being in full-sized SUVs and trucks, with buses, heavy-duty trucks, forklifts and commercial vehicles likewise providing significant growth opportunities.
At present, the main barrier to FCV adoption is a lack of convenient fuelling infrastructure. Not enough hydrogen fuelling stations exist and hydrogen fuel remains very expensive to produce. In addition, hydrogen production may not be clean, depending often on fossil fuel-generated electric power. FCV cell systems for car engines also remain prohibitively expensive.
Keith Wipke, Laboratory Program Manager at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, stated, “It is the first part of the curve, the first 100 to 1,000 units, that is most challenging. If an automaker like Toyota is producing 30,000 (FCVs) in 2020, then 100,000 in 2025 is reasonable.”
Among the report’s key findings, it stated that:
The current market leader in FCVs, Toyota, will lose dominance in the coming decade as Honda and Hyundai grow their FCV offerings
Europe will overtake the Asia-Pacific in FCV volume by 2030, joining North America in leading FCV deliveries
Numbers will remain comparatively small, with about 301,000 annual FCV sales in 2030, representing under 1.0% of global volume. However, that number represents a major increase over the infinitesimal 575 FCVs sold in 2015 and signals that FCVs are on the path to wider proliferation in the 2030s and beyond