Study: Hydrogen unlikely to top 0.1 percent of vehicles by 2027

Study: Hydrogen unlikely to top 0.1 percent of vehicles by 2027

Hydrogen fuel cells may be facing a difficult battle against traditional powertrains and electric alternatives, according to an iHS Automotive study.

Researchers suggest hydrogen-powered automobiles are currently experiencing a ‘third wave’ as several automakers attempt to bridge the divide between expensive prototypes and truly mass-market distribution.

“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,” said IHS Automotive senior analyst Ben Scott. “This could be a ‘now or never’ situation for FCEVs in mass market mobility.”

Buyers currently face just three choices — the Toyota Mirai, Hyundai Tucson FCV and Honda Clarity — and availability is limited to Japan, California, Korea and a few other small markets. IHS expects 17 models by 2027, including a few offerings from European automakers, however FCVs as a whole are only forecast to reach 70,000 annual sales in the same period. The figure represents a scant 0.1-percent market share.

As several automakers prepare to launch cheaper long-range EVs, hydrogen cars are still relatively expensive and restrained by limited infrastructure. Just 17 stations are spread across the entire state of California, and many have been off-line for days or weeks as operators deal with maintenance problems.

“Hydrogen refueling stations are typically quite large and oftentimes need dedicated sites,” IHS points out. “EV charging stations are relatively inexpensive, whereas a hydrogen refueling station can cost more than $3 million (USD).”

Researchers also suggest FCVs have not yet gained enough traction to justify a transition toward ‘green’ hydrogen from renewable sources. In the meantime, hydrogen will continue to be overwhelmingly derived from fossil fuels.

The report claims hydrogen has a small window of opportunity to gain a wider foothold before battery technology catches up in terms of recharge times and range.

“If the FCEV market has not reached this stage in the next 20-25 years (i.e., moved past the early adopter phase), then FCEVs will remain only in niche applications,” the authors concluded.

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