A recent survey of global automotive executives by accounting firm KPMG revealed 78% of them said hydrogen fuel cells are the “real breakthrough” due to their zero emissions, construction, operation, and recycling or disposal. 62% of those polled said electric vehicles will fail, meaning the current push for electric vehicles may be somewhat short-lived. 76% believe the traditional internal combustion engine will remain relevant for “quite some time,” except for diesels, which they do not see lasting much longer. 82% believe a Silicon Valley firm will launch an electric or autonomous car within the next four years. Perhaps, most interestingly, 59% of these executives believe that half of all drivers in the world do not want to be owing a car by 2025. The survey included 1000 auto executives in 42 countries.
The global hydrogen fuel cell vehicle market is projected to grow at compound annual growth rate of more than 82% during the next 5 years, according to the latest Technavio report. According to the market research firm, the growth will be driven by three factors: reduced emission and improved fuel economy; development of infrastructure to produce hydrogen; and incentives and investments by governments. Moreover, fuel cells are compact and lightweight and thus the mileage of these vehicles is considerably higher when compared to plug-in electric vehicles. The demand for fuel cell electric vehicles is directly related to the existence of hydrogen infrastructure. Significant investments are now being made to scale up the production of hydrogen, including thermochemical conversion of fossil fuels to hydrogen by steam methane reforming or coal gasification processes with integrated carbon capture and storage units, biomass gasification, and the use of nuclear or renewable energy for water electrolysis. All major countries are investing in research and development of hydrogen vehicles and supporting infrastructure development including providing financial incentives to universities, manufacturers and to buyers of fuel cell vehicles.
South Korean automaker Kia announced it will bring a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to market by 2021. The company said it will be a ‘bigger’ model which would be capable of housing conventional combustion engines, as well as hybrid and electric options and a fuel cell. The hydrogen range will range be about 500 miles with a top speed around 105 mph. Over the next four years the company will spend over US$8 billion to launch seven new hybrids, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and battery-electric and fuel cell cars. More efficient multi-speed transmissions are also being developed.
In the US state of California, a county near Los Angeles is adding 10 hydrogen fuel cell buses to its fleet. It already has one hydrogen bus in operation. The municipal bus line will also be adding a hydrogen refueling station and making maintenance modifications to service hydrogen vehicles. The 10 new buses are scheduled to begin service by the end of 2018. The bus line also has 530 buses which operate on compressed natural gas (CNG). These buses are financed by the State which has a goal of transforming all buses to zero-emission vehicles by 2040.
Also in California, the city of Oakland is doubling its hydrogen bus fleet by adding 10 new fuel cell buses. These are expected to be operating by the end of 2018.
Iceland is beginning to build a hydrogen fuel cell refueling network across the Nordic country. Nel Hydrogen Solutions has formed a joint venture with Icelandic oil retail company Skeljunger HF to build the first three stations and an electrolyser. The stations will be connected to central hydrogen electrolysis production. Once completed in 2018, almost 80% of the Icelandic population will be within reach of one of the three stations. This is the first step in the continuous, long-term expansion of the network across the nation.