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Fuel cell market breaks 1 GW global capacity barrier

Fuel cell market breaks 1 GW global capacity barrier

Last year saw the global hydrogen fuel sector add more than 1 GW of new capacity for the first time, according to a new report.

The Fuel Cell Industry Review 2019 from specialist sustainable energy consultancy E4tech, reveals that approximately 1.1 GW of fuel cell capacity was shipped worldwide – a rise of 40 per cent on 2018.

The study notes that the market driving force – in every sense – continues to be fuel cell vehicles, led by Japan’s Toyota and South Korea’s Hyundai. Between them, the two companies account for two thirds of 2019’s shipped fuel cell capacity. The remainder comprises stationary systems – the bulk being US and Korean power generation units – plus tens of thousands of Japanese CHP units installed in apartments.

David Hart, director of Fuel Cells and Hydrogen at E4tech, said: “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.”

He added that “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, make up half 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 said: “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.”