The Fuel Cell Industry Review 2019 shows a market poised for rapid growth in the 2020s
2019 saw the global hydrogen fuel sector add more than 1 GW of new capacity for the first time, according to the Fuel Cell Industry Review 2019. The report, from specialist international sustainable energy consultancy E4tech, reveals that approximately 1.1 GW of fuel cell capacity shipped worldwide – up 40% on 2018. Now in its sixth year, E4tech’s report examines the sector by fuel cell type, application and geography to provide an overview of an industry that is poised for rapid growth as we enter the 2020s.
The driving force for the market continues to be fuel cell vehicles, led by Japan’s Toyota and South Korea’s Hyundai. Between them, these two companies account for two thirds of 2019’s shipped fuel cell capacity, and when you factor in burgeoning bus, truck and van markets, vehicles account for over 900 MW of the 1.1 GW total. The remainder consists of stationary systems – of which US and Korean power generation units make up the bulk – and tens of thousands of Japanese CHP units installed in apartments.
For David Hart, Director, Fuel Cells & Hydrogen at E4tech, “There is a real sense that the industry is on the cusp of something great. Fuel cells are proven from a technical perspective, and blowing past the 1 GW mark is a vindication of that. Now, as we enter a new decade, the sector also enters a new stage, which will be characterised by rapid commercialisation and infrastructure build out.
“If the 2010s can be seen as the breakout decade for the battery, the 2020s will see the ascendancy of the fuel cell. Just in time, too: climate change targets are looking more urgent and challenging than ever, and we need a full range of technologies to meet them. Mayors around the world are worried about air quality and health concerns from diesel, which helps fuel cell buses and trucks. At the same time, the broader hydrogen sector is starting to expand as recognition grows that some applications, like heat, will be difficult to fully electrify. This supports and complements fuel cell growth.”
Asia remains the largest market for fuel cells, accounting for 680 MW, driven strongly by Hyundai NEXO sales into Korea and by Korean stationary power. Fuel cell vehicles deployed in Asia in 2019, including trucks and buses in China, constitute 50% of the total shipped fuel cell capacity worldwide. The NEXO also accounts for some growth in European capacity, which rose from 41 MW to 69 MW in 2019. However, the biggest market outside of Asia is North America, which saw shipped capacity of 384 MW – down slightly from 425 MW in 2018, but expected to rebound in 2020.
Hart comments: “To succeed, the fuel cell industry will need to see the supply chain mature quickly enough to deliver on expectations, and to allay any remaining safety concerns. But the opportunity is huge, big players are investing very seriously in hydrogen, putting the pieces into place to make it work. Once that happens, fuel cells will rank as an established technology, feeding not just into the success of today’s products and systems, but featuring in the designs of tomorrow’s innovators and entrepreneurs.”