Here Comes the Fuel Cell Car


According to a new survey, fuel cell technology is regaining momentum.

The era of the electric car has begun in 2011 as Nissan and Chevrolet unleashed the Leaf and the Volt, respectively, for a full calendar year. None of them have so far achieved the marked sales targets. However, both automakers are determined to press on in 2012 as other manufacturers join the EV battlefield while they also develop and refine further new technologies. So what are the prospects for those new technologies? According to the latest survey of senior auto executives published by global consultancy firm KPMG, the prospects are not that good.

By 2025, only 15 percent of all cars sold will be e-vehicles in all forms (EVs, fuel cell, hybrid and plug-in hybrid). That does not sound very good and not a very promising return on the high investment currently being made in R&D of those technologies. North American and European executives are expecting only six to ten percent of all cars to be EVs. China is expected to be the leading nation in adopting e-mobility followed by its neighbor Japan, and then emerging market countries. However, automakers are lacking, according to KPMG's executives, the vision and the direction in which the industry is quickly moving towards.

In China and Japan, respondents predict better success for full EVs than the global average by 2025; well over 50 percent of respondents from China expect that upwards of 11 to 25 percent (or 4 to 9 million vehicles) will be e-cars. While 46 percent of respondents from Japan predict that e-car registrations will exceed 25 percent. That is in contrast to the US, where nearly 50 percent believe new e-car registrations will account for a much smaller percentage. In China and Japan, 33 and 46 percent of the respondents said that EVs will be the preferred technology while globally there is a preference for hybrid and plug-in hybrid technologies.


However there is a revival in the belief that fuel-cells will be an important factor in car electrification following improvements in tests results from last year. "The industry faces a tough decision on whether to place more trust and resources in fuel-cell or battery vehicle concepts in the long-term," commented said Mathieu Meyer, KPMG's Head of Automotive for Europe and a partner in the German firm. "Hybrids may be more popular in the interim than pure, battery-powered cars, but the hidden champion that could emerge will be fuel-cell vehicles."

But the relative success of the e-car is still not the end of the road for the internal combustion engine. "Internal combustion engines are not going away any time soon, especially as fuel efficiency and performance standards continue to improve," said Gary Silberg, US Automotive Sector Leader and a partner in the US firm. "However, OEMs continue to invest heavily in electric propulsion, and will play a leadership role in the development of these emerging technologies going forward. While several technology platforms show a lot of promise, there is no clear winner in the race at this point."

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