Hydrogen-powered vehicles will make up just 1 per cent of passenger cars by 2050, as the falling cost of lithium ion batteries means the much more expensive hydrogen fuel cells simply won’t be able to compete with full battery EVs.
And as for plug-in hybrids – Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s preferred type of electric vehicle – they will be little more than a flash in the pan on the road to full electrification.
The predictions appear in a major new report on the future of electric vehicles by BloombergNEF.
The report’s outlook for hydrogen fuel cells is hardly surprising, and adds to a growing pile of reports that contradict those – such as Toyota, which recently launched its updated hydrogen-powered sedan, the Mirai, in Australia – who still insist hydrogen cars have a bright future.
“Direct electrification via batteries is the most economically attractive and efficient approach to decarbonising road transport and should be pursued wherever possible,” the BNEF report says.
“Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can help fill the small gaps left by electrification in some heavy vehicles, in regions or duty cycles where batteries struggle.”
While a negligible fraction of passenger cars will use hydrogen fuel cells, the technology could account for 16 per ent of buses and 10 per cent of heavy commercial vehicles by 2050, the report said.
As for plug-in hybrids, BNEF was adamant they would be a passing fad – and that was a good thing, it said, because their owners tend not to use the battery all that often.
“Plug-in hybrid sales rise quickly in Europe in the near term to meet tightening vehicle CO2 targets, but then fade as battery prices continue to fall,” the report said.
“There is growing evidence that plug-in hybrids are often not charged, and the current favorable policy treatment could change quickly. PHEVs do not gain any significant share in other markets beyond Europe and Japan, and nearly 80 per cent of global plug-in vehicles sales by 2025 are battery electrics.”
James Fernyhough is a reporter at RenewEconomy and The Driven. He has worked at The Australian Financial Review and the Financial Times, and is interested in all things related to climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy.