Fuel-cell electric vehicle sales slump; EC approves multi-billion state aid plan

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Hyperion XP-1 vehicle next to a new hydrogen refuelling station for the vehicle during the press day at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California. (Source: Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Global sales of hydrogen-powered fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEV) slumped 30.2% to 14,451 units in 2023 from the same period a year earlier, Korean consultancy SNE Research said in a study released in February.

FCEV sales in 2023 dropped from 20,704 units sold in 2022 and was the lowest registered since 2020 when just 9,483 units were sold, the consultancy said.

Hyundai Motors was the biggest seller, shifting some 5,012 units of its FCEVs the NEXO and the ELEC CITY, though that was down 55.9% from a year earlier when the company sold 11,354 units.

Toyota, meanwhile, sold 3,839 units in 2023, up just 3.9% from a year earlier.

Chinese companies, mostly focused on the commercial vehicle market, sold 5,362 units, up 2.4% from the same period in 2022, while the country sold the most FCEVs, followed by Korea, the United States, Europe, and Japan.

The global decline in hydrogen-powered vehicle sales was mostly due to the falloff in sales of Hyundai FCEVs due to a lack of new options following just two facelift models for the NEXO in 2021 and 2023, the consultancy said.

“In addition to that, due to the increasing charging cost of hydrogen cars, defective hydrogen incidents, and hydrogen charging infrastructure shortage, it has become inevitable for FCEVs to lose their luster in the eco-friendly vehicle market,” SNE research said.

Meanwhile, China has been rapidly expanding its own FCEV market share by taking advantage of its hydrogen commercial vehicle market, it said.

EC approves state-aid plan

The European Commission (EC) has approved the third Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) to support hydrogen infrastructure involving seven member states and public funding worth 6.9 billion euros ($7.5 billion), the EC said in a statement in February.

The project, IPCEI Hy2Infra, was jointly prepared and notified by France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and Slovakia,

The public funding is expected to unlock 5.4 billion euros in private investments, the EC said.

IPCEI Hy2Infra will support the deployment of 3.2 GW of large-scale electrolyzers, new and repurposed hydrogen transmission and distribution pipelines of approximately 2,700 km, the development of large-scale hydrogen storage facilities with a capacity of at least 370 GWh, and the construction of handling terminals for liquid organic hydrogen carriers to handle 6,000 tons of hydrogen a year.

“All 33 projects included in the IPCEI are highly ambitious, as they aim at developing infrastructure that go beyond what the market currently offers,” the statement said.

“They will lay the first building blocks for an integrated and open hydrogen network, accessible on non-discriminatory terms, and enable the market ramp-up of renewable hydrogen supply in Europe.”

Economic, structural benefits seen in EverWind project

EverWind’s Nova Scotia-based green hydrogen and ammonia project will have significant economic and environmental benefits, according to a study by the company.

EverWind’s Economic Impact Assessment found that, during the construction period for Phase 1 of the Nova Scotia Project, it would contribute over CAN$2.3 billion ($1.7 billion) to Canadian GDP, 11,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs, and approximately CAN$568 million in government revenue.

During post-construction for Phase 1, the project would contribute over CAN$340 million a year to Canadian GDP, create around 900 FTEs, and raise around CAN$37 million in government revenue.

The study found that the first phase of production may break the chicken-and-egg problem of hydrogen supply and demand and establish further phases of growth and sustainability of project operations, it said.

“Future phases of the project, which include additional onshore and offshore wind development, are set up to generate further economic benefits to Canada and Nova Scotia,” EverWind said.   

Lake Charles Methanol announces new plant

Clean hydrogen project Lake Charles Methanol II (LCM) has announced plans to invest $3.24 billion to construct a new manufacturing plant to produce low-carbon intensity methanol and other chemicals at the Port of Lake Charles in Southwest Louisiana.

The company will use advanced auto thermal gas reforming technology, carbon capture, and secure geological storage to produce low-carbon hydrogen for conversion to methanol, it said in a statement.

The project will create 123 direct new well-paid jobs and an estimated further 605 indirect new jobs in the Southwest region, it said.

The project is currently undergoing a FEED study and regulatory permitting and a final investment decision (FID) and construction is expected by mid-2024, it said.

The proposed facility would reform natural gas and renewable gas feedstocks into hydrogen, while capturing CO2, which would then be used to produce around 3.6 million tons of methanol a year.

“The project will deliver substantial tangible economic benefits to local communities while providing an environmentally beneficial blue methanol product to facilitate the transition to low-carbon chemicals and fuels,” LCM President Don Maley said.

By Reuters Events Hydrogen