The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a division of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), released a July 2012 report on a seven-year study of hydrogen fuel cell technology and how automakers and oil companies are collaborating on this topic. According to the report, hydrogen fuel cells have developed significantly over the last seven years, specifically in terms of their durability, time between refills, and how long it takes a driver to refuel at the station.
Days before the report’s release, Toyota president and CEO Jim Lentz announced the development of a hydrogen fuel cell sedan that will be included in the automaker’s 2015 lineup. Other car manufacturers, including Mercedes, Nissan and Hyundai, also recently announced plans to introduce hydrogen-powered vehicles to their lineups in the next two to four years and it is now clear that hydrogen cars will be an option for consumers in the very near future.
While widespread production is imminent, the industry will still not be able to avoid the challenges presented by the tough marketplace. Hydrogen is more expensive than oil and fuel cells are more expensive than internal-combustion engines. Additionally, the infrastructure is not currently there to support a mass influx of hydrogen vehicles on the road. However, the report stated in its conclusion, “As the automotive OEMs and other researchers worldwide continue to focus on the remaining challenges of balancing durability, cost and high-throughput manufacturability, we are optimistic that improvements will result in a manageable incremental cost for fuel cell technology.”
The full report can be viewed here: http://www.nrel.gov/hydrogen/