Hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles may be packed with cutting-edge technology, but there’s uncertainty regarding their growth in the near future. A recent report from IHS Automotive projects hydrogen cars could sell at a rate of 70,000 units a year worldwide by 2027, a number that would represent less than 0.1 percent of global vehicle market share.
Today, there are only three Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) models available, including the Toyota Mirai, Hyundai Tucson, and Honda Clarity. The report predicts by the end of 2017 that total fuel-cell vehicle production will be less than 5,000 units worldwide before ballooning to 70,000 in about 10 years. Researchers also claim that a total of 17 fuel-cell models will be available by then, with most coming from European makes. Mercedes-Benz and Audi are currently investing heavily in fuel-cell technology and both automakers are rumored to have a hydrogen-powered vehicle ready in a few years.
2016 Toyota Mirai rear three quarter
It’s still too early to say when or if hydrogen vehicles will move from a niche to mainstream product, but the report suggests that transition must happen within 25 years before the public shuns fuel cells in favor of other alternatives like hybrids and battery electrics. “This could be a ‘now or never’ situation for FCEVs in mass market mobility,” said Ben Scott, senior analyst with IHS Automotive, in a statement.
That said, hydrogen vehicles have a number of advantages over EVs. In addition to more range, fuel-cell vehicles can be refueled in a short amount of time, similar to conventional gas-powered cars. But hydrogen cars also face many challenges. For starters, very few hydrogen stations exists and are expensive to build (the report estimates each station costs around $3 million) compared to the relatively cheap cost of EV charging stations.