Fuel cell cars could be cost-competitive by 2050, says Carbon Trust

Posted at September 29, 2012 » By : » Categories : News » Comments Off on Fuel cell cars could be cost-competitive by 2050, says Carbon Trust

Fuel cell cars could be cost-competitive with their conventional internal combustion engine rivals by 2050, according to a new report from the Carbon Trust.

The report, which is launched at the Clean Tech Investor Conference today, says one-third of all vehicles on the road could be powered by fuel cells by 2050, creating a $261 billion market worth some $4 billion to the UK economy.

Moreover, says the Carbon Trust, UK companies like Acal Energy, ITM Power and Ilika, along with research institutions such as Imperial College and University College London, are at the forefront of making the technological breakthroughs necessary to make it happen.

Currently, state-of-the-art polymer fuel cells cost an estimated $49 per kW when manufactured at scale for automotive applications.

But this cost needs to fall to around $36 per kW to make fuel cells competitive with internal combustion energy vehicles.

The Carbon Trust’s report says savings are possible through reduced materials costs – especially expensive catalyst materials like platinum, increased power density, simpler systems and improved durability.

If costs can be cut, through innovative projects such as those being supported by the Carbon Trust’s £10 million polymer fuel cells challenge, it could lead to an explosion in the market with an additional 200 million fuel cell vehicles taking to the road.

By 2050, that could mean some 690 million fuel cell vehicles on the road bringing savings of 260 million tonnes of carbon emissions – equivalent to the current annual emissions of Taiwan.

“Our new analysis shows that the future is bright but innovation is essential to unlock the market potential by driving down the costs of new polymer fuel cells,” says James Wilde, director of innovation and policy at the Carbon Trust.

If investment can be sustained, the UK is in pole position to benefit from the expansion of fuel cell vehicles, he adds.

Meanwhile, Korean carmaker Hyundai, which has been conspicuous in not offering a range of electric or hybrid models, has announced that it is to begin production of its hydrogen ix35 Fuel Cell vehicle by the end of the year.

The company will initially offer the vehicle for public and private lease and plans to produce some 1000 units by 2015.

Cities in Denmark and Sweden including Copenhagen have already signed contracts to add the ix35 Fuel Cell to municipal fleets.

After 2015, Hyundai says that it plans to ramp up production of the vehicle with a goal of 10,000 units.

“The ix35 Fuel Cell is the pinnacle of Hyundai’s advanced engineering and our most powerful commitment to be the industry leader in eco-friendly mobility,” says Woong Chul Yang, vice chair and head of RD at the company.

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Related stories:
Carbon Trust backs UK fuel cells pioneers with £1.95 million (2-Aug)
Isle of Wight to become UK’s hydrogen fuel test bed (19-Jul)
UK fuel cell pioneers to benefit from £1 million boost (22-Feb)
UK government launches hydrogen initiative with industry (18-Jan)

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