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New Study on Commercial Viability of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles

McKinsey & Company Study Says Technology Is Ready for Commercial Ramp-Up; Hydrogen Infrastructure Costs Comparable to Electrical Infrastructure

A comprehensive new study entitled “A Portfolio of Power-trains: A Fact Based Analysis” concludes fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are ready for commercial scale-up, and essential to meeting our energy security and environmental needs. The report was released in Brussels Monday, November 8.

The analysis by the respected international consulting firm McKinsey & Company — sponsored by a 31-member public-private coalition — states that significant penetration of both fuel cell and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will be needed to build a sustainable transportation system by 2050 — and that FCEVs and BEVs could be cost-competitive with internal combustion engines (ICEs) as early as 2020.

The study also concludes that costs for a hydrogen infrastructure are comparable to installing a charging infrastructure for battery-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The report finds that a dedicated hydrogen infrastructure is “justified and doable.” McKinsey called the initial infrastructure investment “relatively low.”

The study is available at

“This highly detailed analysis confirms the value of fuel cell EVs in our national clean energy portfolio,” said Ruth Cox, president and executive director of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association. “Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles are ready for commercial scale-up. FCEVs are the best EV option for longer trips, and for medium size and larger vehicles, where they can be cost-competitive with ICEs. Compared to BEVs, they have inherent advantages in price-performance and range; refueling time is measured in minutes rather than hours.”

FCEVs received high marks in all three categories analysed in the
report: performance, economics and environment. In terms of infrastructure, the study said higher risk investments by first-movers can be greatly reduced when several companies invest, coordinated by governments, and supported by dedicated funding and legislation.

“The data are fresh, the evidence is abundant and the conclusions are emphatic,” said Cox. “It is time for a shift in U.S. Energy Policy to align the U.S. with the rest of the world in pursuing the full portfolio of electric vehicles. The portfolio approach is the fastest, cheapest and smartest way to achieve energy independence and respond to climate change.”

The study warns that government action and investment must begin now, “as a matter of urgency,” if G8 policy goals are to be met by 2050.

“While the analysis focuses on Europe, the technology and cost assessment is applicable worldwide,” Cox said. “The policy conclusions are relevant to the United States as the U.S. has even more medium and large vehicles than Europe, and we drive our cars longer distances. The study’s findings reinforce the conclusions of our members who are committed to the commercial rollout of these vital technologies.”

Similar analyses done in the U.S. by the National Academies of Science and other groups over the past few years also back up the McKinsey findings.

About the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association

The FCHEA is the world’s premier advocacy organization dedicated to the commercialization of fuel cells and hydrogen energy technologies. More information can be found at

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