Hydrogen Vehicle Investing Update

Are Hydrogen Vehicles Gaining Momentum?

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted May 17, 2012

According to a new report, hydrogen vehicles could account for anywhere from 30-70% of the market by 2050.

The study, conducted by Dr. David Greene and his colleagues at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), was presented at the DOE 2012 Hydrogen and Fuel Cells and Vehicle Technologies Programs Annual Merit Review meetings in Washington this week.

The reason for this extremely wide range is due in large part to how well fuel cell technology improves. If it improves greatly, the cost of hydrogen vehicles will plummet and could easily take the lion’s share of the market. In addition, the hydrogen fueling infrastructure would absolutely need to improve along with the technology to bring sales into the 70% range.

Conversely, if hydrogen technology stagnates or doesn’t improve in a timely manner, hydrogen vehicles would be around 30% of the market, which is still a vast improvement over current numbers.

This study, which is nearly 50% complete, is using the ORNL’s Market Acceptance of Advanced Automotive Technologies (MA3T) methodology along with a baseline calibrated to the US Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) 2011 reference case.

Some key findings of the report include:

  • Low-cost batteries (Bat+) help all vehicles. The light duty vehicle market is big enough for fuel cell and battery technologies to succeed.

  • The key factor in H2V success is fuel cell technology. Battery success expands the market for both H2 and ICE plug-in hybrids.

  • Should the technology improve, hydrogen vehicles can be competitive under a wide range of hydrogen prices ($2/g to $4/g).

  • H2V market success will vary with the price of oil.

  • Success for battery and fuel cell vehicles reduced light-duty GHG emissions by 55% in 2050 compared to 2010.

  • The subsidies required for hydrogen (both fuel and infrastructure) are estimated to be in the $30 billion range.