The International Energy Agency estimates that there were 3.1 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road at the end of 2017 and predicts that there will be 125 million by 2030.
Consumers rank not having enough access to efficient charging stations as the third most serious barrier to EV purchase, behind price and driving range. That’s according to McKinsey’s 2016 EV consumer survey of buyers considering battery-powered EVs in China, Germany, and the United States. With EV prices declining and ranges expanding, charging could soon become the top barrier.
Bob Kelly, Haskel’s Business Development Manager for Global Hydrogen, is driving advancements that overcome those barriers to fuel cell vehicle adoption. He and the rest of our Global Hydrogen Systems Group have been involved in 33 hydrogen refueling installations and collectively have extensive experience in the hydrogen market.
Below, Bob discusses common challenges in the hydrogen market and the ways companies are working to meet the demand for cost-effective fuel cell EV charging stations.
You recently presented on the topic of integrated supply chains in hydrogen systems at the 2019 Hydrogen & Fuel Cells Energy Summit in Madrid.
What were some of the highlights of that summit? Top trends?
The two-day event brought together key industry stakeholders from all facets of the hydrogen industry to discuss the required economical and infrastructural innovations for a sustainable future energy carrier. We all agreed that whether it be clean air or decarbonization, the hydrogen economy is becoming a more attractive route to the end goal. Over the last few years, hydrogen technologies have gained incremental traction in terms of investment and business profile.
For the hydrogen market, what does infrastructure involve?
The infrastructure is the fueling station, the support for the vehicles that are being developed. As fuel cell vehicles are being rolled out, hydrogen refueling stations are necessary to allow the market to grow. You can’t have one without the other. It is just like cars and gas stations.
A lot of focus is put on the car and the advancements that are made with each model, but it’s the fueling stations that play an essential role. That’s where we put our focus.
What are the top issues that occur with a lack of refueling infrastructure?
Lack of adoption is the biggest issue. The lack of refueling infrastructure remains a key barrier to the roll-out of fuel cell vehicles. If the cost of fueling station infrastructure is so high that companies won’t support them, then consumers won’t buy the cars. Consider the age-old question of which comes first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken always comes before the egg. An example that illustrates this is the case of Henry Ford, who in 1908 introduced a reproducible product to meet the needs of the end user and made the market more accessible and attractive.
Where are the gaps in supply chain integration and management within the hydrogen industry?
The biggest gap is the availability of cost-effective, reproducible, and reliable technology for fueling stations. The availability of stations providing reasonably priced hydrogen in places where fuel cell vehicles will be deployed remains a key challenge to the adoption of this technology. Early adopters will buy the cars because they like the technology, but for mass adoption to happen, there needs to be reasonably priced, readily available hydrogen fueling stations. Better infrastructure would help speed this adoption of hydrogen technologies and the progress of the overall market.
Companies are moving towards this in a variety of ways. Haskel’s model is unique because we are in control of a significant portion of our cost base. This allows us to deliver a product at a market price and remain profitable, with higher sustainability than other models.
Where is the most potential for companies to fill these infrastructure gaps?
The fastest growth is in China and Asia and then Europe and North America (head to head). California is the biggest market in North America.
The benefit to the market: cost-effectiveness. Until the cars are available in mass production, this will be a difficult economic model. To get the throughput you need to have consumer buy-in.
Companies need a clearly defined road map that focuses on both the needs of the business and the needs of customers. This cannot continue to be an intellectual exercise. The needs of the customer are real and customers will not buy cars that they can’t refuel.
What steps is Haskel taking to contribute to advancing the hydrogen market?
Haskel has a competitive, standard design that our partners can roll out in a cost-effective manner. Our integrated supply chain means controlling 80% of our supply chain, allowing us to control costs in a unique way. So, there are not levels of suppliers adding a profit to each level. This allows us to keep costs down.
Our design reduces ETO (engineering to order) or FTE (first time engineering). All we have to do is build it. This is a big difference from other providers. It is like the Model T— it is mass-produced to meet customer demand.