To the 48% of consumers who think that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are at least
a decade away, the auto industry is saying, “Welcome to the year 2024!”
Hyundai Motor Co. began leasing a fuel-cell version of its Tucson sport-utility vehicle in California — the
first mass- produced fuel cell vehicle to be sold in the United States. Other
automakers plan to introduce their vehicles beginning next year.
support the sale — or leasing — of these new vehicles, the California Energy
Commission announced in May that it is investing $46.6 million to help develop the hydrogen fueling
infrastructure in the state. This latest investment will add 28 stations to the
nine in operation and 17 under development in the state, according to USA
promise of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles has been touted for years, and was a big
focus at this year’s Washington Auto Show. From the retail perspective, one of
the biggest advantages of hydrogen fueling is that it is very similar to current
fueling procedures. Customers fill up their vehicles in a 3- to 4-minute
experience that mimics traditional fueling.
It is expected that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will soon hit the market in
several other countries. Toyota announced that it will sell hydrogen fuel cell
vehicles in Japan in early 2015, and will expand sales to the United States and
Europe later in the year.
So with vehicles hitting the market and the infrastructure being developed,
will consumers buy hydrogen fuel cell vehicles? It may take a bit of education
given the results of a July 2014 NACS consumer survey. Nearly half of consumers
surveyed by NACS (48%) say that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are at least a
decade away (42%) or will never reach the market (6%). Meanwhile, 36% say that
they could hit the market in the next year or two and only 15% say that the
vehicles are currently available.
While California has been the focus of developing a U.S. market for hydrogen
fuel cell vehicles, consumers in the West were no more likely to say that they
are currently available, with 46% saying that that these vehicles would either
never hit the market (5%) or are at least a decade away (41%).
“The roll-out plan for vehicles and refueling infrastructure is a coordinated
strategy to ensure that fuel is available when and where the vehicles are
introduced,” said NACS Vice President of Government Relations John Eichberger,
who also serves as executive director of the Fuels Institute. “As the market
develops, the experience gained in these initial California markets will inform
market participants concerning the feasibility of the hydrogen market and
facilitate the expansion of the service area to more consumers.”