The Growing Outlook for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles
While automotive manufacturers take action to care first for their employees, families, and communities, they’re closely watching for key changes and decisions that will color their strategic business planning in the years to come:
- Length of manufacturing operations shutdowns
- OPEC production cuts and the impact on gas prices
- Consumers’ priorities and cultural shift in the wake of the epidemic
The global economic forecast for the automotive industry offers new challenges and opportunities for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. As we collectively look for bright spots during this time, consider the world’s growing awareness of our power to create change. The crisis has given the public a quantifiable look at how quickly we can drop emissions with a shift to green energy.
With fewer drivers on the roads, countries like China are experiencing significantly reduced air pollution. Similarly, shutdowns in Italy caused incredibly clear waters throughout cities like Venice.
NASA images show China pollution reduction a 25% emissions reduction amid 4-week slowdown. Credit: BBC News
In the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle market, pre-existing barriers to entry, most importantly, cost and production volumes were tied to:
- Availability of low cost, durable fuel cells
- High density of energy storage for reasonable range and quick refilling
- Matched functionality, reliability, and cost as gas-fueled competitors
- Same safety features as gas-fueled vehicles
Quick refilling and range are superior to battery-powered electric vehicles but given the current cost differences and a dramatic economic downturn due to COVID-19, timeline setbacks for large-scale adoption of hydrogen fuel cell consumer vehicles are likely.
The same may not be the case for fleet vehicles, though. While automotive manufacturers closely watch for changes to emissions regulations, the pandemic presents both challenges and opportunities:
As governments debate sector-specific bailouts for industries like cruise lines, airlines, and public transit, there is the opportunity for a significant reduction in carbon footprint with a large-scale investment in hydrogen.
Major energy companies may also recognize the need to diversify investments into green technologies, helping to secure a resilient supply chain for hydrogen.
China is the first country to recognize the urgent need for driverless delivery in a pandemic. The increased pressure for autonomous fleet vehicles may also help to offset any timeline setbacks for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, as hydrogen has proven to be a beneficial platform for electricity-dependent onboard computers. Hyundai has found that fully-autonomous modules can consume as much power as 50-100 laptops, making hydrogen fuel cells a clear choice.
For manufacturers who are bringing innovative technologies to market that can accelerate the viability of hydrogen fuel cells, we’re grateful for the advocacy and public spotlight as an impetus of change.
“The global health crisis has thrown the need for sustainable decarbonization of the energy system into sharp relief, and decision makers will have to confront this reality once the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.” Jennifer Gordon, managing editor and senior fellow, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council
Discover more about Haskel’s hydrogen innovations