Production of Global Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) is expected to reach more than 70,000 vehicles annually by 2027, as more automotive OEMs bring FCEVs to market, according to a new FCEV report from IHS Automotive.
There are only three FCEVs currently available for consumers to purchase/lease; Toyota Mirai, Hyundai ix35/Tucson and the Honda Clarity, all of which are only available in select markets. However, during the next 11 years, the number of available FCEV models is expected to jump to 17, as more OEMs add FCEVs to their product portfolios, IHS says.
As expected, in the near-term, most FCEV production is expected to be in Japan and Korea, but by 2021, European FCEV production will take the lead globally. This indicates a shift in regional momentum for FCEVs as OEMs look to meet emissions targets. However, by 2027, FCEV will only represent less than 0.1 percent of all vehicles produced, according to IHS Automotive forecasts.
Many comparisons are made between Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and FCEVs. Current generation FCEVs share similar benefits to conventional cars; short refueling times and long range. Most BEVs on the road today do not have these advantages.
Battery technology is improving each year, with $/kWh decreasing, while energy density increases. Although hydrogen has the advantage in terms of refueling times and range, battery technology is catching up. Until this happens, the FCEV market has a window of opportunity to establish itself as a serious contender in long term zero-carbon mobility. IHS analysts say. 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.
Hydrogen Refueling Infrastructure
While FCEVs have the advantage of short refueling times and long range, there is still the problem of hydrogen refueling infrastructure. To date, there are approximately 100-plus public hydrogen refueling stations globally. OEMs are currently defining the early adopter markets, and this is where hydrogen refueling stations will be deployed. Hydrogen refueling stations are typically quite large and oftentimes need dedicated sites. EV charging stations are relatively inexpensive, whereas a hydrogen refueling station can cost more than $3 million (USD).
There is already a very well established hydrogen market, but 96 percent of all hydrogen produced is derived from fossil fuels (brown hydrogen), the feedstocks being natural gas, liquid hydrocarbons and coal. For truly sustainable, zero-carbon mobility, the hydrogen used to refuel FCEVs needs to come from renewable sources (green hydrogen). This can be achieved using an electrolyzer and electricity from a renewable source (solar PV, wind turbine etc.). However, the cost of green hydrogen will come at a premium compared to hydrogen from an existing plant, like a steam methane reformer.
Platinum is used as a catalyst in fuel cells. Therefore, if FCEVs do become a key player in long-term zero carbon mobility, then demand for platinum will increase. “In current generation FCEVs, the amount of platinum used is five to six times that of a diesel catalytic converter, but the aim is to reduce the amount of platinum used when fully commercialized and there is R&D into non-noble metal catalysts,” Scott said. However, FCEVs could still offer a good opportunity for platinum producers especially considering the pessimist sentiment around long-term demand prospects of diesel engine vehicles and therefore platinum automotive catalyst demand.