BOULDER, CO – According to a recent report from Pike Research, cumulative commercial sales of fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) will surpass 1 million by the end of this decade, generating $16.9 billion in annual revenue by 2020.

For the passenger car market, fuel cells offer the benefits of zero-emissions operation without the range and charging limitations of pure battery electric vehicles (BEVs). While the market for fuel cell vehicles has been slower to develop than many anticipated a few years ago, major automakers including Toyota, Daimler, GM, Honda and Hyundai have all publicly stated that fuel cells are a critical piece of a complete clean vehicle portfolio. Commercialization is expected to accelerate beginning in 2015.  

The largest market for FCVs will be the Asia Pacific region, which will account for more than half of total worldwide sales in 2020, Pike projected. The most rapid growth, however, will come in Western Europe, where sales are estimated to increase at a compound annual growth rate of almost 53 percent.

“The limiting factor for the FCV market will be the availability of hydrogen infrastructure,” said senior analyst Lisa Jerram. “If current plans for station construction are delayed or abandoned, the rollout of FCVs will be similarly pushed back.”

While these latest figures represent a downgrade from Pike Research’s previous FCV forecasts, published in the first quarter of 2010, the clean-tech market intelligence firm expects a steep change in FCV production levels to occur in 2015. After a five-year ramp-up period, production from top automakers will likely reach just under 58,000 in that year and accelerate rapidly from there. Early sales will be focused on areas where infrastructure investments have been or are being made, such as the United States (primarily California and the New York City region), Germany, Scandinavia, Japan (mainly Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Fukuoka), South Korea (primarily around Seoul), and Shanghai, China.

Pike Research’s report, “Fuel Cell Vehicles,” analyzes opportunities and challenges in the development of commercially viable fuel cell cars, buses and trucks. The report examines key market drivers and barriers for FCV development in the face of competition from incumbent internal combustion engine vehicles and new plug-in electric vehicles. The report includes a status update on the progress of fuel cell R&D toward meeting commercial technical and cost targets for cars and buses.  

The report also covers key countries’ policies promoting development and adoption of FCVs, strategies and plans of major industry players, and discussion of the vehicle segments and drivetrain configurations under development.