Production of global hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) is expected to reach more than 70,000 vehicles annually by 2027, according to a new FCEV report from IHS Automotive, as more automotive OEMs bring FCEVs to market.
“Recently, there has been an increasing focus on battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and battery technology, but FCEVs could also play a key role in zero-carbon mobility,” says Ben Scott, senior analyst with IHS Automotive. “We are now in the third wave of FCEVs from OEMs, and more hydrogen refueling infrastructure is beginning to be rolled out. This could be a ‘now or never’ situation for FCEVs in mass market mobility.”
According to the report, there are only three FCEVs currently available for consumers to purchase/lease: Toyota Mirai, Hyundai ix35/Tucson and the Honda Clarity – all of which are only available in select markets. However, IHS says the number of available FCEV models is expected to jump to 17 over the next 11 years, as more OEMs add FCEVs to their product portfolios.
In the near term, most FCEV production is expected to be in Japan and Korea, but by 2021, European FCEV production will take the lead globally, the company asserts. However, by 2027, IHS Automotive forecasts FCEVs will only represent less than 0.1% of all vehicles produced.
The report mentions that many comparisons are made between BEVs and FCEVs. Although current-generation FCEVs share similar benefits to conventional cars, including short refueling times and long range, most BEVs on the road today do not have these advantages.
“Refueling habits with an FCEV will be very similar to that of a conventional car. This will definitely help with customer acceptance of FCEVs,” Scott says.
The report addresses that although hydrogen has the advantage in terms of refueling times and range, battery technology is catching up. Until this happens, IHS analysts say the FCEV market has a window of opportunity to establish itself as a serious contender in long-term zero-carbon mobility. If the FCEV market does not reach this stage within the next 20-25 years, then IHS predicts FCEVs will remain only in niche applications.
IHS goes on to say that despite FCEVs’ advantages, there is still the problem of hydrogen refueling infrastructure. Hydrogen refueling stations are typically quite large and oftentimes need dedicated sites. EV charging stations are relatively inexpensive, whereas a hydrogen refueling station can cost more than $3 million.
For truly sustainable, zero-carbon mobility, the hydrogen used to refuel FCEVs needs to come from renewable sources rather than fossil fuels – which can be achieved using an electrolyzer and electricity from a renewable source, such as solar PV or wind turbines. However, the cost of green hydrogen will come at a premium compared to hydrogen from an existing plant, such as a steam methane reformer.
“There is no market today to justify that premium, and that market needs to be created to encourage investment in upstream hydrogen production capability. There is currently a trade-off between hydrogen carbon footprint and cost,” says Scott.
The full report is available for purchase here.