Fuel cells offer the benefits of zero-emissions operation without the range and charging limitations of pure battery electric vehicles (BEVs). While the market for FCVs has been slower to develop than many anticipated a few years ago, major automakers including Toyota, Daimler, GM, Honda, and Hyundai have all stated that fuel cells are a critical piece of a complete clean vehicle portfolio. Commercialization is expected to accelerate beginning in 2015. According to Pike Research, sales of FCVs will surpass 1 million by 2020, generating $16.9 billion in annual revenue by that year.
The largest market for FCVs will be the Asia Pacific region, which will account for more than half of total worldwide sales in 2020. The most rapid growth, however, will be in Western Europe, where sales will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 53%.
According to analysts, the limiting factor for the FCV market will be the availability of hydrogen infrastructure. If current plans for station construction are delayed or abandoned, the rollout of FCVs will be pushed back.
Pike Research’s analysis indicates that, from 2010 to 2014, approximately 10,000 FCVs will take to the streets. Then, in 2015, the firm forecasts that 57,000 FCVs will be sold around the globe, with sales soaring to 390,000 vehicles annually by 2020. It may be noticed that it took one company, Toyota, a decade to sell a million gas-electric hybrids around the world.
The hydrogen boom won’t play out the same everywhere. Pike predicts the following places will be FCV-heavy by 2020: the United States (primarily California and New York City), Germany, Scandinavia, Japan, South Korea and Shanghai, China. But none of Pike’s predictions will come true without a significant increase in the hydrogen infrastructure.