Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles – FCEV Trends – Hyundai, Honda, Daimler – Japan, US, UK, China

Fuel Cell Market Introduction – Global Scenario

Market introduction of FCEV requires the following: the cars themselves and hydrogen refueling stations to support them. Initial deployments are likely to focus on government fleets, other return-to-base fleet operations and the high-end consumer car market in areas with an appropriate level of infrastructure. Following early market introduction, widespread consumer acceptance and adoption will be gradual, accelerating as infrastructure density increases and the cost of production of the vehicles and the hydrogen fuel decreases. Ultimately, take-up will depend on the advantages and costs of FCEV when judged against alternatives.

‘A portfolio of powertrains for Europe: A fact-based analysis’, a collaborative study between automakers, energy suppliers and EU government organizations, impartially assesses the varying merits of FCEV, BEV, PHEV and ICE from 2015 to 2050. It expects that the total cost of ownership for these powertrains will converge after 2025; level pricing will allow vehicles to be selected on technological and environmental merits and a surge in FCEV sales should be expected after this point.

Fuel Cells – Commercial Developments


The Hyundai Nexo hydrogen fuel-cell SUV that debuted in Jan 2018 at the Consumer Electronics Show. It is expected to go on sale in the U.S. in the fourth quarter of 2018. The general consensus is that the Nexo is a more integrated, more refined, and likely far more practical vehicle in daily use than its predecessor.

The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell (known in Europe as the ix35 Fuel Cell), was delivered by the company in a few hundred units in total from late 2014 through early 2017. While the hydrogen-powered Tucson was good enough for a vehicle not originally designed for that powertrain, it shows a low performance at a highway speed.  The Nexo, on the other hand, is a dedicated hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, meaning, the model is not available with any other powertrain.

GM -Honda

The Clarity Fuel Cell reinforces Honda’s continued efforts to drive increased adoption of fuel cell vehicles and the creation of a viable hydrogen refueling infrastructure across the continent. Honda will run a dedicated fleet of new Clarity Fuel Cell vehicles in European demonstration projects until 2022, showcasing its advanced fuel cell leadership, as well as the impressive real-world performance of these vehicles.


In 2017, Nissan was the first company in the global auto industry to develop a prototype vehicle that was powered by a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) using bioethanol as a fuel. By combining this with two other technologies (motor and electric batteries), the Nissan SOFC achieved autonomy over 600 kms. As Nissan had a large supply network for bioethanol and Brazil is one of the main ethanol producers in the world, Brazil was chosen by the Japanese company as the country to unveil the prototype car worldwide and to conduct its first testing of the vehicle.

Carried out with two vehicles equipped with SOFC, the first phase of testing of fueling and day-to-day use was carried out in 2017 by the Research and Development team of Nissan Brazil and demonstrated that the technology adapted perfectly to daily use and fuel in Brazil, even more so because the country has existing infrastructure for supplying ethanol throughout its territory.

Fuel Cell Vehicles in Japan

In Dec 2017, Toyota, Honda and Nissan partnered with eight industrial firms to make a fresh push on hydrogen refueling stations in Japan. The group wanted to build 80 stations within the first four years of the partnership (from 2017-2021) – which is expected to last a decade – with nine in operation by March 2018. The plan would nearly double the 91 stations available in the country in 2017.

Japan’s carmakers have made big strides with fuel-cell cars in recent times since 2014. Toyota launched the Mirai, the first fuel cell car for the mass-market, in late 2014, while Nissan, in 2016, announced its plans to develop fuel-cell technology using plant-based ethanol. The problem, predictably, is cost. A Mirai car cost 6.7 million yen ($59,000), in 2017, which was nearly double the price of a comparable electric car, while hydrogen stations could cost as much as 500 million yen ($4.4 million) to build. As such, there were only around 2,200 fuel-cell cars in Japan till end 2017.

The partnership between Toyota, Honda and Nissan which was signed in 2017, also involved Tokyo Gas, oil refiner Idemitsu Kosan, gas maker Iwatani and the Development Bank of Japan, and aimed to drive down the costs involved in building hydrogen stations, and also bolster their lobbying power to push for looser regulations around the technology. The government set a target in 2016 to increase the number of fuel-cell cars in Japan to 40,000 by March 2021, so with the industry otherwise stalling, this partnership could be the catalyst needed to bring the technology mainstream.

Fuel Cell Vehicles in the United States

In 2017, 26 FCEBs (Fuel Cell Electric Buses) were reported to be operating in four locations across the USA, 19 in California and five in Ohio, where SARTA (Stark Area Rapid Transit Authority) planned to establish the largest FCEB fleet outside of California. Massachusetts Bay Area Transportation Authority celebrated its first FCEB and HRS (Hydrogen Refueling Station) in summer 2017; one bus was operating in Michigan. There were at least 41 buses in the planning stages, 33 in California, 7 in Ohio and 1 in Illinois. Prices remained high; SARTA’s new additions to the fleet in 2017, cost US$1.4 million each, down from an earlier US$2.5 million but still much higher than Europe’s stated prices. U.S. cities were looking to eliminate emissions from their public transit fleets – the mayor of Los Angeles, for example, set an objective of 2030 for an emissions-free fleet. This and other local government activism on climate might increase the opportunity for FCEBs in the U.S., though till end 2017, there has been little evidence of a willingness to pay a substantial premium for lower emissions.

Fuel Cell Vehicles in the United Kingdom

In 2017, the Government of UK granted a funding of US$ 30 million towards the development of hydrogen vehicles and infrastructure.Regulatory policies pertaining to emissions along with increasing investments towards development of hydrogen infrastructure would drive the UK fuel cell market share. Increasing focus to replace the conventional power sources with the sustainable energy systems would further stimulate the industry growth. The Government of UK has planned to open 65 hydrogen refueling stations by 2020 and 1,150 by 2030.

Fuel Cell Vehicles in China

China’s fuel cell market is expected to witness significant growth between 2018 and 2024. The ongoing investments, since 2017, by major industry players including Hyundai towards the development of H2 infrastructure will complement the industry outlook. In 2017, Hyundai unveiled its plans to launch the second-generation hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, which will further enhance the properties of technology.

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Narasimhan Santhanam

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