Hydrogen fuel-cell cars face many roadblocks to mass adoption, but a new report claims they could achieve price parity with gasoline by 2025.
Drafted by the California Energy Commission, the report lays out a plan for development of renewable hydrogen production plants in the state, predicting that future demand and costs will make this new infrastructure worthwhile.
"The key findings are that the dispensed price of hydrogen is likely to meet an interim target based on fuel economy-adjusted price parity with gasoline of $6.00 to $8.50 per kilogram by 2025," the report said.
That figure does not include the impact of California Low Carbon Fuel Standard credits, which would lower the cost of hydrogen to consumers even further, the report said.
However, the price comparison was calculated based on vehicle efficiency, not energy density or other measures, such as the cost of fuel-cell powertrain components themselves.
The consensus among stakeholders is that hydrogen needs to achieve price parity with gasoline in order for fuel-cell vehicles to be a self-sustaining business without subsidies, according to the report.
Price parity with internal combustion has also long been considered a goal for battery-electric cars to aim for, but it's usually discussed in terms of battery cost, not efficiency.
2019 Toyota Mirai
As we've mapped out before, fuel-cell vehicles use more energy than battery-electric cars and hybrids.
Volkswagen also recently laid out, concisely, why fuel cells don't make sense for passenger vehicles. Not only are the cars themselves less efficient than alternatives, but the process of generating hydrogen is inherently inefficient, the automaker argued.
Yet fuel cells may have a future beyond passenger cars.
The California report noted many other possible transportation uses for hydrogen, including commercial trucks, buses, ships, and trains, as well as petroleum refining, power generation and storage, heat, industrial processes, and ammonia production."
Just last week, Toyota launched a new joint-venture partnership toward the creation of a "hydrogen-based society" in China, based on widespread use of fuel-cell vehicles.
Another possibility is that fuel cells will be seen as a complement or upgrade to batteries in the future. With so many hurdles to be solved, however, we're certainly not betting on it.