2021 Hyundai Nexo
Even in trucking, where the need for large battery packs has been a limiting factor, battery-electric vehicles outnumber fuel-cell vehicles, the study said. EV range may still be too limited for long-haul trucking, however, potentially providing a niche for fuel cells, according to the study.
Proposed megawatt charging systems could swing the advantage back to EVs, but it isn’t yet clear whether it will be less expensive than hydrogen, according to the study. The total cost of ownership will ultimately be the determining factor in whether fuel cells or batteries dominate in trucking, the study noted.
“Policymakers and industry need to decide quickly whether the fuel cell electric truck niche is large enough to sustain further hydrogen technology development, or whether it is time to cut their losses and to focus efforts elsewhere,” the study concluded.
Hyundai Xcient Fuel Cell semi truck to be used in California tests
It’s not all bad news for hydrogen, though. The authors believe fuel cells could have a big future in aviation, shipping, and steel-making. Just not cars and trucks.
At least some automakers share that perspective. Volkswagen has laid out why fuel cells make no sense in cars. General Motors has closed the door on the tech in passenger vehicles, too, but sees it as a future tech for trucking and military uses. It’s also looking at hydrogen for portable generators and, ironically, EV fast charging.
The California Energy Commission has also released a rosy projection—that fuel-cell tech is expected to reach price parity with gasoline by 2025. That’s based on the energy itself, not the vehicle tech or the cost of fueling stations.