Boulder, Colorado – More than 5,200 hydrogen fuelling stations for cars, buses and forklifts will be in operation worldwide by 2020, up from just 200 in 2010, according to a new report from Pike Research. The firm estimates that by the end of that period, annual investment in hydrogen stations will reach US$1.6 billion, with a cumulative ten-year investment totalling $8.4 billion, while annual demand will rise from approximately 775,000 kg of hydrogen in 2010 to 418 million kg by 2020.

Currently, the key direct hydrogen fuel cell applications are primarily light-duty vehicles, forklifts, buses, stationary power and scooters, which creates infrastructure challenges.

“There is no one clear business model for the hydrogen infrastructure market at present,” said senior analyst Lisa Jerram. “Currently, the major players in hydrogen fuelling 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 favour large-scale hydrogen infrastructure options.”

Jerram said that some smaller independent hydrogen suppliers that are developing and marketing smaller on-site technologies could offer a more “modular path” to hydrogen infrastructure buildout, while vehicles that use very small quantities of hydrogen, such as scooters, could be fuelled by small solid-state hydrogen cartridges that are readily distributed in retail outlets.

Pike’s analysis indicates that by 2020, forklifts will be the largest driver of hydrogen fuel demand, representing 36 per cent of the total market by that time. Light-duty vehicles will consume 33 per cent of total hydrogen, and stationary power sources will represent 27 per cent. Fuel cell buses and scooters will each be a relatively small percentage of total demand.

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