To advance fuel cell commercialization as a source of
alternative energy for a range of applications, the U.S.
Department of Energy (DoE) has been working with
national laboratories, universities, and various industry
partners. The three main markets for fuel cell technology
include stationary power, transportation, and portable
power. “Beyond cost of electricity, there are a number of
positive intangibles for solid oxide fuel cells,” says John
McGuinness, GE-Fuel Cells: The Power of Tomorrow
co-author and Strategic Marketing Leader at GE-Fuel Cell.
As part of this initiative, the DoE recently invested more
than $20 million to support 10 new projects to progress
both fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, such as light-duty
fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).
FCEVs became commercially available late last year, with
the Hyundai Tuscon Fuel Cell and Toyota’s Mirai. Honda
claims it will begin FCEV sales in 2016, after unveiling its
FCV CONCEPT – the world’s first fuel cell sedan with
the entire powertrain, including the fuel cell stack, located
under the vehicle’s hood.
Toyota has projected that its annual fuel cell vehicle
sales will reach more than 30,000 by 2020 (ten times its
projected 2017 figure). The company has even said that
it plans to stop selling traditional gasoline cars entirely by
In order for companies to meet these ambitious goals,
fuel cell technology has to reach price parity and fueling
stations need to be constructed. However, many signs
indicate that the fuel cell industry is reaching its tipping
According to the DoE’s 2014 Fuel Cell Technologies
Market Report, the industry grew by almost $1 billion in
2014, reaching $2.2 billion in sales, compared to $1.3
billion in 2013. Additionally, more than 50,000 fuel cells
were shipped worldwide in 2014.
Welsh physicist William Grove and German physicist Christian Friedrich Schönbein
conceptualized and developed the first
prototype fuel cell in 1839. While the
technology has made great strides over
the past 175 years, it has yet to reach
mass adoption due to its high cost and
relatively low efficiency.
By Melissa Fassbender, Editor
Fuel Cell Adoption
A model fueling station. (Image credit:
Sarah Gerrity, Energy Department)