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China provides a boost to growth for the fuel cell sector

The international sustainable energy consultancy E4tech has released its Fuel Cell Industry Review 2016 report, which highlights the increasing influence of China on the fuel cell sector's growth. The stable Chinese government leadership is giving the still-fragile sector – so far led by Japan, North America, and Europe – a lift in the wake of the Paris Agreement a year ago.

China now pushing hard

The Fuel Cell Industry Review 2016 sees a shift in focus from the historically diffident Chinese government towards supporting the sector, in keeping with its Paris commitments, air quality concerns, and economic opportunities.

China has continued its fuel cell subsidies under a major government support scheme for new energy vehicles (while cutting those for battery cars), and will bring at least 300 fuel cell electric buses into service in 2017.

Continuing growth worldwide

This development underpins continued growth in the sector worldwide, with the total number of shipments up by two-thirds on 2015.

The transport industry is leading the way, with the number of car-related fuel cell shipments having doubled to 280 MW in the past year, while stationary fuel cell shipments saw a 10% rise to 200 MW.

Long-term outlook is key

‘This year’s report demonstrates the importance of a long-term outlook for governments that seek to support a growing industry,’ says E4tech director David Hart, a long-time fuel cell and hydrogen expert.

‘The sector remains fragile,' he continues. 'But by supporting fuel cell-powered vehicles in tandem with funding for hydrogen infrastructure and projects developing roadmaps, monitoring and supply-chain capabilities, the Chinese government is providing a real sense of direction for private sector firms to follow.’

Sector still to mature

‘But that’s only part of the equation,' stresses Hart. ‘This is an important period in the development of fuel cells internationally.’

‘The sector is yet to fully mature, and new players are entering the market all the time,' he says. 'This increased competition could lead to dramatic improvements in the energy solutions available. Savvy businesses should monitor the situation to make the most of breakthroughs as soon as they arrive.’

Ongoing and emerging trends

The Fuel Cell Industry Review 2016 features a comprehensive analysis of ongoing and emerging trends in the fuel cell sector. It shows extensive shipment data broken down according to region, application and technology to help readers from the worlds of business, finance and government to navigate this increasingly complex space.

Additional findings from the 2016 report include:

  • The installed base of Japanese residential combined heat and power (CHP) fuel cell systems has grown by 25% this year.
  • The Japanese government has set targets of 1.4 million fuel cell systems installed by 2020, and 5.3 million installations by 2030.
  • 2016 saw a two-thirds increase in the number of fuel cell-powered forklifts in operation, to 10,000 materials handling vehicles.
  • Europe leads fuel cell bus use worldwide, with 18 buses operating in the UK and 17 in Germany.
  • A consortium of US national laboratories believe that, if deployed properly, hydrogen energy and fuel cells could help to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
  • 70% of younger users felt ‘battery anxiety’ with smartphones, a concern heightened during the Pokémon Go craze, which highlighted the need for ‘on the go’ charging.

This is the third such report from the E4tech-led team, which includes long-time industry experts Bob Rose and Jonathan Lewis.

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Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Energy storage including Fuel cells  •  Policy, investment and markets