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Last updated: Feb 2020 by Narasimhan Santhanam

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Fuel Cell Market Introduction – Global Scenario

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 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.


The Hyundai Nexo is the company’s first vehicle architectured for a fuel cell 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.

honda fuel cell 

The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell powered in display at the Auto Expo 2018


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 the end 2017.

The partnership between Toyota, Honda and Nissan which was signed in 2017, also involved Tokyo Gas, oil refinery 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 the 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 the 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.

Fuel Cell Vehicles in  India

A Bengaluru-based startup called Log9 Materials believes that the key is to focus on energy-generation, instead of energy storage. Log9 Materials say that a car powered by aluminium fuel cells can have a range of 1000 km post which the aluminium plates can be replaced within minutes

Aluminium fuel cells primarily use three components 

  • aluminium, 
  • water, 
  • carbon in the form of graphene. 

In very simple words, there’s water between layers of graphene, and when aluminium comes in contact with water, it corrodes – releasing energy. The procuring raw materials for aluminium fuel cells is much simpler than those for lithium-ion batteries which use lithium and cobalt. And hence, manufacturing cost can be considerably lower for aluminium fuel cells than lithium-ion battery packs.

Another benefit of this technology is that the aluminium plates are exhaustive in nature and at the end of their useful life, they turn into an oxidised powder than can be sweltered into aluminium plates again. Hence, that actually makes the spent fuel recyclable.

Speaking of aluminium plate replacement, there would have to be replacement centres set up and that the cost of setting these up would be far lower than traditional fuel filling stations and electric charging stations since there is no specific infrastructure required like it is in the case of fossil fuels or electric charging. While an electric car currently needs some 6-7 hours to charge or 2-3 hours on fast charging, aluminium plates would take minutes to replace.

Fuel Cell Vehicle Updates – Global

Year Automaker Maker Engine FC Power(kW) Range(miles) Max Speed(MPh) Hydrogen Pressure(Bar) Note
2002 Toyota FCHV (Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle) Fuel Cell/BatteryHybrid 90 180 96 350
2002 Ford AdvancedFocus FCV (Fuel Cell Vehicle) Fuel Cell/BatteryHybrid 85 180 n/a 350 30 Fleet Vehicles In Sacramento, Orlando, and Detroit
2004 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell/BatteryHybrid 80 185 93 350 Demonstration project in the U.S. between 2004-2009 and in Korea between 2006-2010
2004 Kia Sportage Fuel Cell 80 185 93 n/a Demonstration project in the U.S. between 2004-2009 and in Korea between 2006-2010
2006 GM Equinox FCEV Fuel Cell/BatteryHybrid 93 200 100 n/a Leasing Started in 2007.  100 Vehicles in California, New York, and Washington DC
2007 Honda FCX Clarity Fuel Cell 100 354 100 350 Small Scale Production of 200 Vehicles between 2008-2010, Leasing in Southern California and Japan
2008 Kia Borrego/Mohave FCEV Fuel Cell/SuperCapacitor  115 426 93 700 Leasing to Seoul, Korean residents starting in 2009
2008 Toyota FCHV-adv Fuel Cell/BatteryHybrid n/a 97 n/a n/a Limited leasing in Japan started In 2008. More than 100 leased in Connecticut, California and New York.
2009 Daimler Mercedes-Benz B-ClassF-Cell Fuel Cell 90 239 105 n/a Small series production started in 2009. 70 deployed in Los Angeles and San Francisco by 2012
2011 Hyundai Tucson IX Fuel Cell/BatteryHybrid 100 403 n/a 700 Tested 50 vehicles in 2011
2012 Hyundai IX 35 Fuel Cell/BatteryHybrid 100 365 100 n/a Leasing in Sweden and Denmark started in 2012
2014 Honda FCX Fuel cell 231
2017 Honda Clarity 366
2018 Hyundai FE Fuel cell 125kW 497 60% system efficiency
2018 Toyota Mirai Fuel cell 114kW 342
2018/2019 Hyundai Nexo Fuel cell / battery Hybrid 120 KW 370 100 n/a Hyundai made the Nexo available for sale in certain markets early in 2018.

Read more on the EV Battery ecosystem from: EV battery Innovations | Components of BMS | FCEV Trends | FCEV Indian Efforts | Anode/Cathode R&D | Li-ion Battery Trends | BMS Innovations | Indian Battery Manufacturers | Cost of Li-ion Batteries | Anode Materials in 2020-2030 | Key Drivers shaping Battery Chemistry |

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About Narasimhan Santhanam (Narsi)

Narsi, a Director at EAI, Co-founded one of India's first climate tech consulting firm in 2008.

Since then, he has assisted over 250 Indian and International firms, across many climate tech domain Solar, Bio-energy, Green hydrogen, E-Mobility, Green Chemicals.

Narsi works closely with senior and top management corporates and helps then devise strategy and go-to-market plans to benefit from the fast growing Indian Climate tech market.

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