The demand for energy storage is expected to witness an upswing with electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) gaining increasing traction. Fuel cells have an edge over conventional batteries as they exhibit appreciable characteristics such as higher energy delivery per volume weight.
To achieve high uptake of fuel cells in the automotive sector, certain requirements are necessary. These include noiseless operation, lower heat signature, better fuel efficiency, possibility of superior acceleration compared to similar diesel or gasoline-powered vehicles and on-board electric power generation.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (technicalinsights.frost.com), Energy Storage Technologies for Automotive Applications - Strategic Portfolio Management, finds that fuel cells hold great potential because of their favorable thermo-physical properties. Hydrogen and fuel cell products are being tested and commercially deployed in materials handling, fuelling infrastructure and transit bus applications.
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"Mass market adoption of fuel cells is expected to depend heavily on the wide availability of hydrogen and governments worldwide have been revamping the hydrogen infrastructure," notes Technical Insights senior research analyst Avinash Iyer. "Thus in the next five to seven years, many companies are expected to produce hydrogen and thus mutually benefit from research and development efforts on fuel cell technologies."
Although the prospects for the market are upbeat, there are some challenges curtailing market progression. Efficiency of the fuel cells, poor chemical reaction in the fuel cells, hydrogen storage and water management are some of the key challenges in the industrial sector. The efficiency of a fuel cell is generally a major issue because low efficiency results in high cost of production.
Ongoing research activities on efficiency improvement will aid in reducing the cost of fuel cells. For instance, use of nanocatalysts enhances fuel cell efficiency. Heat management is another criterion that will affect the performance of fuel cells. The utilization of alumina coatings to provide strong insulation and protect sensitive electronics could resolve this issue. However, it would take about five to seven years to identify a suitable insulation material for such fuel cells.
The high cost of electrodes such as platinum electrodes is a major impediment hampering the research and development efforts of stakeholders in this field. The use of titanium dioxide instead of platinum could help improve the performance of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells and thus circumvent the challenge. This will help increase its usability in a wide range of automotive applications.
The immediate need of the market is to concentrate on developing fuel cell energy storage devices for automobiles that will generate early revenue streams, cultivate investor confidence and ensure consumer acceptance.
"Investor and original equipment manufacturers venturing into the production of PEM fuel cells have to shift their focus from incentives to production cost as they enter the commercial phase," said Iyer. "Companies must ascertain the availability of economical supplies of platinum for use as a catalyst and hydrogen to power PEM fuel cells to successfully implement PEM fuel cells in automobile applications."
Energy Storage Technologies for Automotive Applications - Strategic Portfolio Management, a part of the Technical Insights subscription, provides insights on the research and development activities in the industrial and academic environment on fuel cells used for automotive applications. Further, this research service includes detailed technology analysis and industry trends evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.
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