E4tech releases Fuel Cell Industry Review 2017

The Fuel Cell Industry Review 2017 offers data, analysis and commentary on key events in the industry in 2017. Now in its fourth year, the report has been compiled by a team led by SHFCA member E4tech - a specialist consultancy in the hydrogen and fuel cell sector.

This year's big trends include:

• significant corporate interest in large-scale hydrogen

• major investment by China to build fuel cell capabilities and companies

• realistic prospects of robust industry scale-up

The 2017 Industry Review shows the fuel cell sector is continuing to grow steadily. About 30% more fuel cell power was shipped in 2017 than 2016, and nearly 10,000 more units. The headline figures for transport are strong, with nearly 5,000 more units shipped than 2016, amounting to 50% more megawatts. A new Hyundai fuel cell vehicle to replace their ix-35 FCV will debut early in 2018, and Toyota announced plans  to have manufacturing capacity for 30,000 Mirai FCV cars by 2020.

Heavier-duty fuel cell vehicles have moved into a position of prominence. In a world of increasingly strict air quality constraints, where major cities such as London are banning diesel buses, heavy duty vehicles using hydrogen have the advantage of better range and faster refuelling than battery ones. In some places it is also easier to build a hydrogen filling station than a similarly sized battery charger. China’s near-term ambitions appear to be firmly anchored in fuel cell trucks and buses, with around 2,500 vehicles integrated during 2017 as compared to almost none in 2016. Commercial deals between Canadian fuel cell suppliers and Chinese stack and system companies should support further growth in the Chinese market for half a million buses annually.

The stationary fuel cell sector did not advance as much as transport. Shipments were up by about 4,000 units, and just a few megawatts. Big growth in phosphoric acid fuel cells (PAFC) was matched by a fall in molten carbonate (MCFC) sales, though it looks like these will recover in 2018. Solid Oxide fuel cells (SOFC) also saw continued growing, with a greater percentage of Enefarm sales in Japan being a main contributor.

Taking a step back, 2017 was a good year for an industry that still has not crossed the risk threshold, and the larger societal and industrial drivers seem more compelling than ever. The promise of carbon free energy via a partnership between electricity and hydrogen has never been more urgently needed nor more widely recognised by governments and leading private sector organizations.

Large-scale carbon-free hydrogen helps decarbonise industry and join energy sectors together. It is seen by corporations like Engie as an essential part of its future… as a ‘hydrogen major’.

Fuel cells complete the vision by providing a low pollution technology to transition from carbon fuels and ultimately by offering pollution free conversion of hydrogen to useful energy.

But the Fuel Cell Industry Review cautions that vision is one thing and cold hard cash is quite another. Fuel cells still need to find the marketplace drivers to match the policy drivers, which will be the task for 2018 and beyond.

The Fuel Cell Industry Review team included Bob Rose of the Breakthrough Technologies Institute; Jonathan Lewis, formerly with Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell Systems; and Matthew Klippenstein, an EV commentator with roots in the fuel cell industry. To enquire about bespoke analysis on markets, industry structure and supply chains, or for other specific consulting engagements, please do contact the team directly at FuelCells@e4tech.com