Friday, July 24, 2015

Outlook: The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Industry

By Guest Blogger: Sandra Curtin
                           Research and Communications Manager
                           Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association 

It’s an exciting time to be part of the hydrogen and fuel cell industry.  This energy technology has moved into the commercial realm, with proven benefits spurring repeat customers, growing sales and deployments in a wide range of market sectors.

Fuel cells – devices that utilize hydrogen and hydrogen-rich fuels to generate electricity through a chemical reaction, rather than combustion – are low-to-zero emission, efficient, resilient technologies sold to provide stationary and backup power, portable power, and power for industrial vehicles, zero-emission light duty motor vehicles, and buses.

The hydrogen and fuel cell industry now supplies fuel cells to Fortune 500 companies to deliver clean, reliable, efficient, and cost-effective power for retail sites, warehouses, data centers and other critical facilities.  Municipalities are using them, too, to power facilities like public buildings, emergency services, and waste water treatment plants.  By using fuel cells, both public and corporate facilities can remain up and running when grid power goes down.

Fuel cells are scalable, allowing the technology to power a building, or produce enough power to supply tens of thousands of homes.  eBay boasts one of the largest fuel cell installations in the U.S., with 6 megawatts (MW) installed at its South Jordan,Utah, data center. There are more than 230 MW of fuel cells installed in the U.S. across thousands of sites, ranging in size from a few kilowatts for off-grid applications, providing primary or backup power to cell phone towers, lighting, and monitoring equipment, to multi-MW power plants that supply power directly to the utility grid.  Fuel cells are also a leading solution in the material handling market, with more than 7,000 fuel cell-powered forklifts operating in warehouses and distribution centers across North America.

After finding success in stationary power generation and material handling applications, fuel cells are now moving into the mainstream, available to everyday customers, with the commercial introduction of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).  In December, Hyundai began leasing Tucson FCEV to individual customers in southern California, Korea and in Europe.  Toyota plans to sell its Mirai FCEV  to the public this autumn and Honda is expected to follow shortly after in 2016.  Most of the other major auto manufacturers are also developing FCEVs.  By 2020 the industry expects to place tens of thousands of FCEVs in the hands of customers in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Governments and businesses around the world are investing in developing hydrogen infrastructure to prepare for these vehicles.  California has set aside $20 million per yearto fund at least 100 hydrogen stations, enough to support an initial FCEV market.  Automakers are also supporting the launch of FCEVs in California by investing millions in funding and loans to hydrogen station developers.  Beyond California, a network of hydrogen stations is also planned across five northeastern states.  Japan’s government has an initial goal of opening 100 hydrogen stations and had allocated more than $175 million to subsidize construction and operation and  major Japanese automakers have joined to help develop the country’s hydrogen fueling infrastructure.  Korea’s government has a goal of opening 200 hydrogen stations by 2025.  In Europe, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Scandinavia are developing networks of hydrogen stations and are emerging markets for FCEV introductions.

Ultimately, we are confident in the outlook of our industry.  Whether powering homes, businesses, data centers, cell towers, municipalities, forklifts, cars, or buses, fuel cell technologies have a proven track record of providing clean, efficient, and reliable power, and we expect continued growth in the coming years in existing markets, as well as new ones.

UCCC invites guest bloggers to share their insights into the alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicle market. We appreciate their contributions and the opportunity to broaden the conversation with others in the community.


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