Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles Are Getting Closer than You Might Think

Automak¬≠ers were very com¬≠mit¬≠ted to bring¬≠ing hydro¬≠gen fuel cell vehi¬≠cles to mar¬≠ket about 10 years ago, and that trends was stalled out for sev¬≠er¬≠al rea¬≠sons ‚Äď with huge costs and min¬≠i¬≠mal fuel¬≠ing infra¬≠struc¬≠ture being the most press¬≠ing. Things seem to be chang¬≠ing, and here are a few inter¬≠est¬≠ing fac¬≠toids on this top¬≠ic, such as sev¬≠er¬≠al major OEMs who are going this route and get¬≠ting close to build¬≠ing these vehi¬≠cles at pro¬≠duc¬≠tion vol¬≠ume‚Ķ.

  • Hyundai has com¬≠mit¬≠ted to sup¬≠port¬≠ing the Mayor‚Äôs Lon¬≠don Hydro¬≠gen Part¬≠ner¬≠ship in the UK. The city has launched a project worth more than 50 mil¬≠lion in pounds, fund¬≠ing hydro¬≠gen bus¬≠es, taxis, scoot¬≠ers, refu¬≠el¬≠ing sta¬≠tions, and mate¬≠ri¬≠als han¬≠dling vehi¬≠cles. Hyundai will pro¬≠vide its exper¬≠tise in fuel cell vehi¬≠cles to the pro¬≠gram, help¬≠ing to build the infra¬≠struc¬≠ture need¬≠ed to sup¬≠port deploy¬≠ment of fuel cell vehi¬≠cles in the region.
  • Cal¬≠i¬≠for¬≠nia Fuel Cell Part¬≠ner¬≠ship antic¬≠i¬≠pates 68 hydro¬≠gen fuel¬≠ing sta¬≠tions will be in place in the state by 2015, ser¬≠vic¬≠ing 10,000 to 30,000 fuel cell vehi¬≠cles by 2016.
  • Ballard‚Äôs Clear¬≠Gen pro¬≠pri¬≠etary pro¬≠ton exchange mem¬≠brane fuel cells are now pow¬≠er¬≠ing a sta¬≠tion¬≠ary pow¬≠er gen¬≠er¬≠a¬≠tion plat¬≠form at the Toy¬≠ota facil¬≠i¬≠ty in Tor¬≠rance, Calif.
  • BMW‚Äôs man¬≠u¬≠fac¬≠tur¬≠ing plant in Spar¬≠tan¬≠burg, S.C. has more than dou¬≠bled its fleet of mate¬≠r¬≠i¬≠al-han¬≠dling equip¬≠ment using hydro¬≠gen fuel¬≠ing sys¬≠tems made by Linde North Amer¬≠i¬≠ca. Hydro¬≠gen pow¬≠ers lifts and trucks that were pre¬≠vi¬≠ous¬≠ly pow¬≠ered by lead acid bat¬≠ter¬≠ies. Hydro¬≠gen now pow¬≠ers 230 of these vehi¬≠cles at the plant.
  • Aston Mar¬≠tin was sched¬≠uled to race its hydro¬≠gen-pow¬≠ered Rapi¬≠de S dur¬≠ing 24 Hours of Nur¬≠bur¬≠gring.
  • Hydro¬≠gen fuel cell vehi¬≠cles will cost 1/20th of the ini¬≠tial pric¬≠ing years ago when pro¬≠to¬≠types were being devel¬≠oped, Toy¬≠ota said. They pro¬≠to¬≠types were cost¬≠ing automak¬≠ers about $1 mil¬≠lion each and are now in the neigh¬≠bor¬≠hood of $50,000 ‚Äď paving the way for a more work¬≠able busi¬≠ness mod¬≠el. Toy¬≠ota will start sell¬≠ing its fuel cell vehi¬≠cle in the US in 2015, though the stick¬≠er price will be more than $50,000 and under $100,000.

Hydro­gen fuel cell vehi­cles will prob­a­bly become a prof­itable growth seg­ment for automak­ers with­in the next 10 years for a few rea­sons:

  • Hyundai, Hon¬≠da, Mer¬≠cedes Benz, Toy¬≠ota, Maz¬≠da, and Gen¬≠er¬≠al Motors are tak¬≠ing the tech¬≠nol¬≠o¬≠gy seri¬≠ous¬≠ly, test¬≠ing out fuel cell vehi¬≠cles and appear to be grad¬≠u¬≠al¬≠ly ramp¬≠ing up to pro¬≠duc¬≠tion vol¬≠umes.
  • The fuel¬≠ing is fast. While there aren‚Äôt enough fuel¬≠ing sta¬≠tions in place today, as that infra¬≠struc¬≠ture grows, you‚Äôre talk¬≠ing about a fuel¬≠ing process that can be com¬≠plet¬≠ed in three-to-five min¬≠utes ‚Äď just like a reg¬≠u¬≠lar gas sta¬≠tion and some¬≠times even faster.
  • Cal¬≠i¬≠for¬≠nia Air Resources Board and a few oth¬≠er agen¬≠cies place fuel cell vehi¬≠cles at the top, or near it, of its low¬≠est CO2 emit¬≠ting vehi¬≠cles. That‚Äôs one of the rea¬≠sons CARB has includ¬≠ed fuel cell vehi¬≠cles, along with bat¬≠tery elec¬≠tric vehi¬≠cles and plug-in hybrid elec¬≠tric vehi¬≠cles, on its list of zero emis¬≠sion vehi¬≠cles required for sale in the state. Fuel cell vehi¬≠cles are mak¬≠ing elec¬≠tric¬≠i¬≠ty to pow¬≠er the car‚Äôs motor ‚Äď this one comes from fuel cell stacks while elec¬≠tric vehi¬≠cles and plug-in hybrids are receiv¬≠ing it from bat¬≠tery packs.
  • While it‚Äôs expen¬≠sive and time con¬≠sum¬≠ing to pro¬≠duce hydro¬≠gen, it is get¬≠ting bet¬≠ter all the time and com¬≠ing from var¬≠i¬≠ous sources. There‚Äôs a lot of hydro¬≠gen going into com¬≠mer¬≠cial and indus¬≠tri¬≠al appli¬≠ca¬≠tions such as fork¬≠lifts, so pro¬≠duc¬≠tion and dis¬≠tri¬≠b¬≠u¬≠tion of hydro¬≠gen is star¬≠ing to reach economies of scale.
  • The tailpipe emis¬≠sion is water vapor ‚Äď H20. It‚Äôs much more appeal¬≠ing to those con¬≠cerned about air pol¬≠lu¬≠tion.
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