Toyota brings fuel cell vehicles into spotlight
December 6, 2015 | By Barbara Vergetis Lundin
Toyota's introduction of the Mirai -- the automaker's first production-level fuel cell car -- has thrust fuel cell vehicles (FCV) back into the spotlight.
The Mirai joins Hyundai's fuel cell-powered Tucson as the only commercially available fuel cell cars on the market today.
While the performance of FCVs makes them ready for commercial launch, the industry is still focused on the two key requirements for larger-scale market introduction: driving down vehicle costs to be competitive with battery and hybrid vehicle technology, and developing the hydrogen infrastructure necessary to fuel the vehicles.
However, Navigant Research predicts annual sales of FCVs will exceed 228,000 by 2024.
"Commercial FCVs are finally available to drivers in select markets, with early indications of real customer interest and signs that manufacturers are getting serious about pricing FCVs to compete at the premium-vehicle level," said Lisa Jerram, principal research analyst with Navigant Research. "Automakers serious about fuel cell technology are expected to tackle the fueling infrastructure problem head on, with much needed investments in station buildout."
Until the infrastructure is available, the market for FCVs is expected to remain supply-constrained, with vehicle production at low levels, according to Navigant. To facilitate the creation of FCV infrastructure, automakers are collaborating with new partners in retail fueling and hydrogen supply.
Fuel cell buses face a less daunting infrastructure challenge since buses can utilize a central fueling facility, according to Navigant; however, this application is also focused on cost reduction. For both the fuel cell car and fuel cell bus markets, governments continue to be a key factor as they spur the deployment of lower emissions technologies and fund the buildout of hydrogen stations.
Meanwhile, FCVs must also compete with battery electric vehicles (BEV) -- which have been available as commercial products since 2010 -- and zero emissions vehicles (ZEV), Navigant notes.
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