Why the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle rollout may now succeed

A convergence of factors is propelling a market rollout of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, according to a new study from the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis. A key to hydrogen’s potential success is a new smart solution that clusters hydrogen fuel infrastructure in urban or regional networks, limiting initial costs and enabling an early market for the technology before committing to a full national deployment, suggests the study.

The researchers behind the study, “The Hydrogen Transition,” probe the variety of factors combining to increase the likelihood of successful hydrogen-powered car commercialization. These include new thinking by government and industry on strategies for developing fuel station infrastructure, falling costs for fuel cell vehicle and hydrogen station components, a new array of sporty hydrogen cars about to come to market from major car makers, ample low cost natural gas for making hydrogen, and the strengthening U.S. interest in climate change solutions.

“We seem to be tantalizingly close to the beginning of a hydrogen transition,” said lead author Joan Ogden, professor of environmental science and policy and director of the Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (NextSTEPS). “The next three to four years will be critical for determining whether hydrogen vehicles are just a few years behind electric vehicles, rather than decades.”

Having sufficient hydrogen fueling locations has been a major challenge. It’s a “chicken or egg” dilemma where automakers are reluctant to market cars without infrastructure, and station providers are reluctant to build stations without cars. Recently, however, regional public-private partnerships are emerging to develop smart, comprehensive build-out strategies in different locations around the globe. These new infrastructure paradigms enable more efficient fueling networks, saving millions of dollars compared to earlier designs, and hold the promise of providing hydrogen conveniently and affordably. Via Why the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle rollout may now succeed.

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