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Fuel-Cell Vehicles Come Back into Focus

Keynote speeches at the IDTechEx "Electric Vehicles: Everything is Changing" conference in Berlin, April 27-28, will commence with Toyota and Daimler detailing their fuel cell vehicle rollouts. None of these organizations is seeking to maximize sales in the short term: their fuel cell cars and buses are either not yet available or are on very restricted issue.

For example, Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell cars have driven a total of 1,000,000 miles in California but the company has delivered only around 100 FCVs since 2014. Toyota limited the Mirai to only 700 in 2015. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that something is stirring in the field of fuel cell vehicles. The IDTechEx Research report, "Fuel Cell Vehicles 2015-2025: Land, Water, Air" takes a balanced view.

Ballard, the leading independent supplier of fuel cells into trials in vehicles, told analysts IDTechEx that the main impediments to roll out are availability of hydrogen charging stations and cost. Hyundai trumpets a three minute refuelling time but it well knows that this is meaningless if it takes an hour to get to one. Governments have, in the main, been tardy in providing the finance for such charging stations as some installed stations are said to cost up to $2 million. The governments of Japan, Korea, Germany and to some extent the UK and California are keen.

The fuel cell is the only zero emission range extender albeit the most expensive to buy and to run until volume sales and value engineering bears fruit. The problem will be fixed of almost all hydrogen used being made from natural hydrocarbons and therefore not green. For example, Toyota is now looking to also power forklifts and air conditioners with hydrogen. It will be produced with renewable energy from Fukuoka, and with Kyushu University on board. Toyota hopes to adapt the technology at its Mirai fuel cell car production plant by 2020.

The IDTechEx report, "Range Extenders for Electric Vehicles Land, Water & Air 2015-2025" shows that the current big move is down-sizing and down-speeding of conventional piston engines as range extenders in series hybrid powertrains, the three cylinder engines in the BMW i-series cars being excellent examples. The IDTechEx report, "Future Technology for Hybrid and Pure Electric Cars 2015-2025" looks closely at this.

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