While most analysts and consumers talk about the switch from internal combustion cars to electric cars, there is another side to the green car story that is unknown. Hydrogen fuel cell cars made modest but attractive numbers last year, showing battery-electric power isn’t the only path to the future.
Data compiled by JATO Dynamics shows global sales of hydrogen fuel cell cars will reach 15,500 units worldwide in 2021. Although very small compared to sales of other fuel types, demand increased by 84 percent compared to 2020, when it was 8,400 units. fuel cell vehicles find new owners. Even more impressive is the increase compared to pre-pandemic levels, which stood at 103 percent.
Niche Segment, How Long?
It’s rare to see a hydrogen fuel cell car on the streets. Since 2011, around 41,700 hydrogen vehicles have been sold – roughly the same number as the cars sold in China by the Volkswagen Group in just a short period of time. four days. Prices for these vehicles are high, and the lack of a robust hydrogen infrastructure contributed to the low sales figures. Also, there are very few options for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles at this time.
Until then, 98 percent of last year’s hydrogen car sales volume was tied to just two models: the Hyundai Nexo and the Toyota Mirai. The remainder of the sales came from the discontinued Honda Clarity and a small number of test cars from brands such as Renault, Maxus, BMW and Peugeot.
However, future plans for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles differ from current sales volumes. Following the introduction of the second generation Toyota Mirai, other automakers such as BMW and Volkswagen announced the development of hydrogen-powered vehicles along with a series of new battery-electric cars.
For example, BMW plans to make 100 test units of the X5 hydrogen this year. Kia announced plans for a hydrogen fuel cell lineup by 2028. The Volkswagen group handed over all fuel cell research and development to the team at Audi, which has involved more than 100 people. Daimler and Volvo trucks are also betting on this technology for their larger commercial vehicles.
South Korea Leads, So far
Until this vehicle under development comes to life, statistics show South Korea is by far the largest hydrogen fuel cell car market. The figures for 2021 put the country ahead of all others by a significant margin.
Thanks to Hyundai’s dominant position and expanding hydrogen infrastructure, South Korea accounts for 55 percent of global volume. Sales jumped from nearly 5,800 units in 2020 to more than 8,500 units last year. And it all comes down to one vehicle: the Hyundai Nexo. It is the best-selling hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in the world, with 92 percent of Nexo’s 9,208 global sales occurring in the South Korean home market.
The Nexo went on sale in 2018 but it wasn’t the only hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that was noticed. The second-generation Toyota Mirai went on sale in 2019, and as a result, sales increased by 257 percent in 2021. Interestingly, the Mirai’s main market in 2021 is not South Korea, but the United States. 2,629 units were sold there, followed by Japan with 2,438 units and 730 vehicles across Europe.
The article’s author, Felipe Munoz, is an Automotive Industry Specialist at JATO dynamics.