While fuel cell vehicles remain limited today, with no passenger cars on sale and primarily demonstration-driven roll-outs of buses, these two applications plus growth in the materials handling industry will grow fuel cell vehicles to a $1.8 billion market in 2030 at a CAGR of 22 percent, according to a Lux Research report. Sales of passenger cars and forklifts will drive this growth.
The Great Compression: the Future of the Hydrogen Economy says high capital costs and low costs of incumbents pose a huge barrier to the larger hydrogen market. But the report forecasts a more positive future for hydrogen fuel and says transportation applications remain the “holy grail” for fuel cell developers.
Lux Research forecasts that 63,000 fuel cell passenger vehicles will be sold globally in 2030, assuming that hydrogen costs $6/kg at the pump, and oil prices reach $250/barrel. This represents a 5.4 GW fuel cell market valued at $817 million.
The report says fuel cell buses — which cost about $2 million today compared to a $325,000 diesel bus — will only grow to 304 unit sales in 2030, a CAGR of 22 percent.
Materials handling via fuel cell forklifts, on the other hand, does offer value to customers, according to Lux Research. Fuel cell forklifts suffer less downtime compared to their electric counterparts, which take longer to charge. This will result in sales of 62,000 fuel cell forklifts (a CAGR of 21 percent from 2012), and revenues of $973 million (a CAGR of 18 percent from 2012).
Automakers’ first-generation fuel cell vehicles include a battery similar to those used in hybrid vehicles, Lux Research says. Toyota’s fuel cell hybrid electric vehicle uses a use a nickel metal hydride (NiMH) and Hyundai’s uses a Li-ion battery, but the fuel cell provides the majority of power.
While BMW’s prototype hydrogen internal combustion engine (HICE) can switch between gasoline and hydrogen as a fuel source, the report says major engineering challenges with HICE designs mean high costs, and carmakers favor fuel cell vehicles over hydrogen combustion. It says there are not HICE vehicles planned for production.
But while EV batteries typically give less than 100 miles of range per charge — a significant issue in the US — fuel cell vehicles are not limited by range. Toyota’s fuel cell hybrid Highlander SUV, for example, has a 300-mile range for a full tank of hydrogen.