Fuel Cell Vehicles 15 Years and $200B Away


In 2003 President Bush announced a $1.2 billion initiative to make fuel cells commercially viable over a 16-year period. Five years later, a new report issued by the National Research Council says that fuel cells are still at least 15 years away from being commercially feasible. The release says that despite “impressive progress toward commercialization,” some $200 billion is needed over the next decade and half — $55 billion from the government and $145 billion from the private sector. The report says that in the short term, fuel efficiency and biofuel research would be a more cost-effective way to reduce transportation emissions.

The biggest obstacles for fuel cells, the report says, are high vehicle costs and a lack of fueling infrastructure. At most, there will be only 2 million fuel cell-powered cars on American roads by 2020, representing less than 1 percent of the fleet, the NRC estimates.

The report’s best case scenario estimates fuel cell vehicles, including cell and refueling costs, will be cost competitive on the passenger car level by 2023. From there, fuel cell adoption could explode, hitting 60 million in 2035 and 200 million by 2050.

The report makes crystal clear just how complicated clean technology is. Cleantech projects have been plagued by delays and increasing expenses, especially in the automotive realm. But such is the nature of research in the areas of hard science and engineering and these risks should not be a surprise to investors.

The National Resource Council is an independent non-profit organization.


Gary B

If the job of getting away from petroleum for the fueling of vehicles and the fouling of the air (and water and the rest of the world in it’s acquisition) then we see that the $200 billion is cheap compared to the cost of inaction. Hydrogen with a lithium ion backup is a great way to go. The cost of any more wars dwarfs the cost of this noble project. Mankind would benefit for hundreds of years when we succeed!

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