Carmakers are paving the way for tomorrow’s hydrogen infrastructure

Posted on March 11, 2016

Filed under Informative   

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have once again made an appearance at a major car show as two new models made their European debuts in Geneva – highlighting the increasing need to develop a hydrogen infrastructure to support the roll out of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).

Both Honda’s Clarity Fuel Cell and Lexus’ LF-FC put in an appearance at the Palexpo exhibition centre in Switzerland, after making their international debuts in Japan, last year. The other stand out FCEV at the show was the Pininfarina H2 Speed concept, a supercar which is able to reach a speed of 300km/h and accelerate from 0 to 100km in 3.4 seconds.

The arrivals of the Clarity Fuel Cell and LF-FC in Europe came just weeks after Audi unveiled its hotly anticipated fuel cell concept car, the Q6 h-tron Quattro. This flurry of activity indicates that the transition to hydrogen could now be gathering momentum around the world.

Indeed, the scale of investment into FCEVs, demonstrated by the number of cars being released and showcased to the market, reveals that they are perceived to be much more than a back-up option but instead are part of a portfolio approach to modern motoring, along with battery electric and hybrid vehicles. However, with limitations on range and long recharging times required for battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs), FCEVs offer an attractive clean and efficient alternative.

For the infrastructure roll out to keep up pace, there appears to be a strategy of placing the onus on hydrogen infrastructure providers. This was neatly encapsulated in comments made recently by a Toyota official. Speaking on a visit to Australia in January, Tony Cramb, Toyota’s Executive Director of Sales and Marketing, said the company had no immediate plans to sell the fuel-cell powered Mirai in the country, even though they had brought the car to the World Hydrogen Technology Convention. Mr Cramb explained that they simply took the car Down Under to “start the conversation with some of the key stakeholders, to try to get the infrastructure in place”.

The transition to zero emissions mobility would open up a whole new market for carmakers, reduce the amount of carbon created by transport and dramatically improve public health, which is impacted by particulate emissions caused by diesel engines in urban areas.

Like many other car makers, Honda and Lexus will hope their latest contributions to the growing collection of FCEVs, will help to catalyse action on hydrogen infrastructure. They are helping to fuel what we believe will become a movement of critical mass.

The initial signs look very positive, with plans afoot to build 35 hydrogen refuelling stations in Tokyo by 2020, 400 across Germany by 2023, 65 filling stations in the UK by 2020 and Hyundai Motor’s CEO, recently said he expects 40 new hydrogen refuelling stations to open in California this year. It looks as though the message is being heard loud and clear.

The conversation is moving on from the infrastructure predicament and is increasingly a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. As the European debuts for the Clarity Fuel Cell and LF-FC at the Geneva Motor Show underscore, carmakers are breaking through the first-mover dilemma with policymakers and forecourt operators beginning to move very much in tandem.


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