Refueling stations that would support a burgeoning hydrogen fuel-cell industry are on the rise and should reach nearly 5,000 by 2032, according to a new report.
The research report from Washington-based Information Trends indicates that hydrogen fuel station deployment in major markets is in full swing, bolstering prospects for large-scale consumer adoption fuel cell vehicles (FCVs).
In 2015, there were 115 hydrogen fueling stations worldwide, and 285 in 2016. This year, that number is expected to grow to 384. By 2022, there will be 1,306, and by 2032 there will be 4,808, according to Information Trends.
In the U.S., hydrogen refueling stations are expected to reach 78 this year. By 2022, there will be 197, and by 2032 there will be 1,208, according to the report.
In 2015, Toyota started selling its FCV Mirai, and Hyundai continued commercial sales of its fuel cell Tucson (in the U.S.) and ix35 (outside the U.S.). Honda unveiled its FCV Concept at several 2015 auto shows, and it began shipping its first vehicle that year.
Honda's third-generation FCV, the 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, began shipping last month at dealerships across southern California.
The Clarity Fuel Cell sedan can be leased and comes with $15,000 worth of free hydrogen fuel. The Clarity Fuel Cell has a 366-mile range and a fuel economy rating of 68 combined MPGe (miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent).
In Europe, Denmark was the first country to deploy a nationwide hydrogen fueling infrastructure, but Germany is leading the deployment charge with 400 stations expected in the next six years, the report stated.
In the U.S., California is aggressively deploying hydrogen stations as part of its efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions.
"Both Toyota and Honda, as well as Korea's Hyundai, have largely stayed away from electric vehicles but are embracing fuel-cell technology in a big way," said Naqi Jaffery, the lead author of Information Trend's report, said in an email to Computerworld. "Both are providing funds for establishing hydrogen filling stations."
According to a U.S. Department of Energy Fuel Cell Technologies Market Report for 2015, the hydrogen fuel industry has reached several milestones over the past several years. Among them was gas company Linde, which in 2015 had more than 1 million hydrogen fuelings at BMW's plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. BMW operates more than 350 fuel cell-powered forklifts to service the plant's production and logistics functions, making it the largest single-site fuel cell forklift fleet in the world.
While the costs of hydrogen stations are declining, their capacities are increasing, the Information Trends report stated. By 2032, hydrogen stations will have aggregate capacity of 3 million kg/day. The competition for dominance in the fuel-cell vehicle market will be vigorous, triggering significant technological innovations and cost declines, it said.
"Hydrogen is the fuel of the future," Jaffery stated in a news release. "And, the proliferation of hydrogen stations represents the natural progression from fossil fuels to clean energy." The sums of money being poured in hydrogen station deployments is staggering, mostly raised through public-private partnerships."
Hydrogen fuel cells work by electrochemically combining hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, water and heat. Fuel cells continuously generate electricity as long as a source of fuel is supplied. Fuel cells do not burn fuel, making the process quiet, pollution-free, and as much as two to three times more efficient than combustion technologies. A fuel cell system can be a truly zero-emission source of electricity when hydrogen is produced from nonpolluting sources.
Last year, Information Trends said hydrogen FCVs will catch up to electric vehicle (EV) sales because of the advantage of shorter refuel times and greater drive distances.
The report stated that by 2020, sufficient hydrogen filling infrastructure will be in place in several regions of the world, giving a boost to the market for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Worldwide, more than 20 million hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be sold by 2032, and those sales will generate up to $1.2 trillion in revenue for the auto industry. By 2050, FCVs will be the "fastest growing segment of the auto market," according to Jaffery.