Power Electronics

Global Fuel Cell Market to Reach $2.6 Billion in 2009

Commercial demand for fuel cell products and services, including revenues associated with prototyping and test marketing activities, will increase nearly sevenfold to $2.6 billion in 2009. By 2014, those revenues are expected to reach $13.6 billion as a number of viable markets for fuel cells are projected to develop during this time period, while advances and economies of scale help drive costs down to competitive levels.

World fuel cell spending (including research and development funding and investment in fuel cell enterprises, in addition to commercial sales) will more than double to $10.8 billion in 2009. These and other trends are presented in World Fuel Cells, a 390-page report published in May by The Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industrial market research firm. Copies of the report are available and priced at $5200.

Electric power generation is emerging as the first large-scale commercial application for fuel cells and will account for more than half of global product and service demand through 2014. However, portable electronics applications are projected to register the strongest gains over the next 10 years, rising from what are now extremely low levels of demand to become the second largest fuel cell market. Fuel cell-powered industrial stationary and motive power equipment will achieve some commercial success as well.

Motor vehicle-related fuel cell demand is potentially huge but has not yet lived up to its potential, constrained by technical and infrastructure-related issues, as well as by high cost barriers. Nevertheless, the use of fuel cell vehicles in government and commercial fleets will provide some impetus to market growth through 2014, as automakers continue to invest in demonstration and test marketing programs. Proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, which currently account for more than half of world commercial demand, will maintain their dominant position through 2009 and beyond.

With a few notable exceptions (such as China), future demand for fuel cell products and services will largely be concentrated in geographic areas where precommercialization activity has been concentrated—the United States, Canada, parts of Western Europe and Japan. Applications that are the most amenable to the use of fuel cells tend to be highly evolved in economically advanced countries such as these, and sufficient amounts of wealth exist in these nations to allow them to invest in fuel cells, as costs are likely to remain high for at least the initial generations of commercially viable systems. Fuel cells also are expected to find some use as a source of electricity in developing countries with inadequate central power grids.

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