Hydrogen-powered cars could be mainstream by 2015

Asia-Pacific carmakers are set to commercialize fuel-cell technology within the next three years, with manufacturers like Honda, Toyota and Hyundai ma

Asia-Pacific carmakers are set to commercialize fuel-cell technology within the next three years, with manufacturers like Honda, Toyota and Hyundai making advances on their FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicle) designs.

In terms of legitimizing the technology, the Asia Pacific region has for many years been at the vanguard of hydrogen- and fuel cell-powered vehicles, but even in Japan and South Korea where investment has been high and public support strong, the market for such vehicles has been limited to concept cars or to fuel cell electric cars that have been leased to fleet users in urban areas. But according to the latest research on the subject by Frost & Sullivan, since the beginning of the year, things have started changing fast.

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Mr. Vijayendra Rao, Research Manager at Frost & Sullivan Automotive & Transportation Practice, Asia Pacific said 'The OEMs are prepared for a 2015 commercialization of the FCEV market. Key Japanese auto OEMs such as Honda, Toyota and Nissan and South Korea's Hyundai//Kia are preparing their FCEV models for commercialization.' As a result, the number of fuel cell vehicles in the two countries is expected to increase from 600 in 2011 to 58,100 in 2020.

Hydrogen fuel cell technology is regarded as key to reducing the effects of global warming while cutting dependence on fossil fuels. As well as being used to create
the energy to power an electric engine in a fuel cell vehicle, hydrogen can also be used as a replacement fuel for traditional internal combustion engines. However,
although both uses of the technology are proven and efficient, extracting and creating hydrogen is still a challenge, as is developing a network of refueling stations.

According to Frost & Sullivan, this infrastructure support is also expected to grow in tandem with the popularity of the vehicles, thanks to government investment.

There are currently 11 hydrogen refueling stations in Japan and a further 11 for the whole of South Korea. 'Both the Japanese and South Korean governments are working towards the development of hydrogen refueling infrastructure that is expected to grow to 1,452 stations in 2020,' added Rao, who explained that this growth is being helped by both countries' governments who not only offer research and development support but are subsidizing the development of the hydrogen station infrastructure via different approaches.

Mr. Rao said that Honda is expected to be the market leader in the fuel cell electric vehicle market in Japan and South Korea in 2020 with a 41.8 percent market share. South Korea's Hyundai and Japan's Toyota are expected to command market shares of 17.4 percent and 17.2 percent, respectively.

First Published Date: 07 Dec 2012, 19:58 PM IST

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