Publication Detail

Prospecting the Future For Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Markets


Research Report

Hydrogen Pathways Program

Download PDF

Suggested Citation:
Kurani, Kenneth S., Thomas S. Turrentine, Reid R. Heffner, Christopher Congleton (2003) Prospecting the Future For Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Markets. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-03-09

As there are currently no retail markets for either hydrogen as a transportation fuel or fuel cell vehicles, any discussion of such markets necessarily prospects the future. To do so, we must evoke an image of the future. Such a task is inherently uncertain – many forecasts have been wrong even for mature markets, much less markets as tenuously incipient as those for hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs). We undertake this risky enterprise by framing the discussion of future markets for hydrogen and FCVs around these two questions.
  • 1. What is the history and future of mobility?
  • 2. Within this future, why would anyone buy a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle?
We address the uncertainty of predicting the future by grounding our answers in a theory of the development of modern societies and the related long-term development of the infrastructures modern societies build to support themselves. The infrastructures we address are automobility, energy, and information. This theory and history describe a trajectory from which we argue modern societies are unlikely to deviate, except in the case of catastrophic events or fundamental shifts in values. Given this, it seems plausible to us that the further into the future we go, the more likely it is that the future we describe will come to pass.

Based on this theory and history of infrastructure development, and particularly on the nascent integration of these infrastructures, we propose that the next supporting infrastructure built by modern societies will be a system that fully integrates automobility, electricity, and information. This will be accomplished, in part, by the transformation of automobiles from their current design and role as primarily mobility tools. In a technological sense, automobiles will become integrated information-mobility-electricity platforms; in a behavioral sense, they will become mobile activity locales. One of the behavioral and technological integrations is mobile electricity, the integration of electric-drive, energy storage and delivery, and mobility technologies such that it is possible for the vehicle to deliver electricity for non-propulsion uses wherever it is, whether it is stationary or mobile.

Based on all this, we argue that in the future, FCVs will gain competitive advantage in the market if hydrogen and fuel cells are the best energy carriers and converters to power integrated information-mobility-electricity platforms. FCVs may also be afforded further competitive advantage by policies that are both sensitive to automobiles new role as mobile activity locales and create socially sanctioned rewards for progress toward the collective benefits which are the real goals of a transition to hydrogen.