This report provides detailed analysis of the various types of fuel cell vehicles currently in use and under development. It also examines the market, legislative and technological influences that look set to drive change in this area over the next five to ten years and beyond. Particular emphasis is given to developments in establishing a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.
Fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) hold the promise of reducing toxic emissions and smog levels in urban areas as well as reducing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas associated with climate change and the focus of legislation in many countries. They also bring a focus on hydrogen and other sources of fuel that have the potential to replace petroleum, which is a finite resource with demand already threatening to outstrip supply capacity such that prices have been volatile and following an upward trend during recent years. Because of these issues and concerns regarding energy security, the governments of many countries have introduced incentives that encourage the development and use of low-carbon vehicles, including FCVs.
Working against these initiatives are several major hurdles including the cost of fuel cell stacks and battery packs, and the current lack of a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure apart from in a few locations within a few isolated regions. Added to these issues, storing hydrogen onboard a vehicle presents challenges and doubts remain regarding the reliability and durability of FCVs and the global capacity to produce hydrogen from sources that actually reduce ‘well-to-wheels’ CO2 emissions.
Despite these barriers, however, OEMs, suppliers and other researchers have developed many concept, prototype and demonstration FCVs during the last two decades and a few major OEMs are now leasing FCVs in demonstration trials that are expected to lead to significant serial production by around 2015.