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Hydrogen Fueling Stations Could Reach 5,200 by 2020

More than 5,200 hydrogen fueling stations for cars, buses and forklifts will be operational by 2020, up from just 200 stations in 2010, according to a report by Pike Research.

In the report, Hydrogen Infrastructure, the cleantech market intelligence firm projects that annual investment in hydrogen stations will reach $1.6 billion by 2010, with a cumulative 10-year investment of $8.4 billion. Demand for hydrogen as a fuel will rise from about  775,000 kg in 2010 to 418 million kg by 2020.

Pike says that key direct hydrogen fuel cell applications include light duty vehicles, forklifts, buses, stationary power, and scooters. Each of these markets presents its own challenges.

The report says that forklifts will be the largest driver of hydrogen fuel demand by 2020, representing 36 percent of the total market by that time.  The other large application categories include light duty vehicles, which will consume 33 percent of total hydrogen, and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) for stationary power, which will represent 27 percent of the total.  Fuel cell buses and scooters will each represent only a small percentage of total hydrogen demand.

“There is no one clear business model for the hydrogen infrastructure market at present,” senior analyst Lisa Jerram says.  “Currently, the major players in hydrogen fueling are large multinationals: the industrial gas companies, and the energy and gas companies, both those that operate retail gas stations and those that provide fuels for the grid.  These companies tend to favor large-scale hydrogen infrastructure options.”

Jerram adds that some smaller “independent” hydrogen suppliers are developing and marketing smaller, on-site hydrogen generator technologies. These could offer a more modular path to infrastructure build-out, she says.

Vehicles using very small quantities of hydrogen, such as scooters, present another method of infrastructure development.  These vehicles can be fueled by small solid state hydrogen cartridges, which are readily distributed in retail outlets, Pike says.

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