It is now or never for hydrogen fuel cell cars, IHS says image

According to a study made by IHS Automotive, hydrogen-powered cars could see a huge surge in the coming years, but the industry has to act now if it really believes in this technology.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars have definitely a place within automakers’ range, as the emissions standards are becoming tougher to be hit. Hybridization has its limits and the global players will have to rely more in the coming years on electric- and hydrogen- powered models to lower NOx and CO2 levels throughout their lineup. There are only three fuel cell electric vehicles currently available for consumers to buy or lease: Toyota Mirai, Hyundai, Tucson ix35 and the Honda Clarity. However, during the next 11 years, the number of such cars is expected to jump to 17, with the global production forecasted to reach more than 70,000 vehicles annually by 2027, according to a report from IHS Automotive.

Most FCEV production is expected to come from Japan and Korea on short-term, but by 2021, European makers will take the lead globally. In 2027, the global output of fuel cell cars will represent less than 0.1 percent of all vehicles build, study shows.

“Recently there has been an increasing focus on battery electric vehicles and battery technology, but FCEVs could also play a key role in zero-carbon mobility,” Ben Scott, senior analyst with IHS said. “We are now in the third wave of FCEVs from OEMs and more Hydrogen Refueling Infrastructure is beginning to be rolled out,” he added. “This could be a ‘now or never’ situation for FCEVs in mass market mobility.”

The hydrogen approach has clear advantages in terms of refueling times and range over the electric one, but battery technology is catching up as it improves each year. Therefore, this is the window of opportunity for FCEVs to establish themselves as serious contenders in long term zero-carbon mobility. If the FCEV market has not reached this stage in the next 20-25 years, then FCEVs will remain only in niche applications, IHS’ analysts say.

And one of the critical steps in hitting the mass-market status is solving the problem raised by the expensive hydrogen refueling infrastructure. According to IHS, there are over 100 public hydrogen refueling stations globally, but the network should rapidly expand to boost consumers’ interest over the technology. But if EV charging stations are relatively inexpensive, the hydrogen ones can cost more than 3 million dollars at this moment.