Top Automakers Are Investing in Fuel Cells. Should You, Too?

Hydrogen fuel cells have long been considered a promising energy storage alternative. However, they have seen limited adoption so far; but that may change in the future. Several governments and leading companies are throwing their weight behind this promising technology. Let’s take a closer look at what these developments may mean for fuel cell companies such as Plug Power (NASDAQ: PLUG) and FuelCell Energy (NASDAQ: FCEL).

Uneven growth

The adoption of hydrogen fuel cells in the global electric vehicle segment is patchy. At the end of 2020, there were roughly 34,800 fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) in use worldwide. Of these, 29% were in South Korea. The U.S. followed with a 27% share while China accounted for 24% of the FCEVs. South Korea is betting big on hydrogen, and the country increased its hydrogen refueling stations by 50% in 2020.

In 2020, roughly 9,590 new FCEVs were sold globally — lower than the 12,350 units sold in 2019. However, the growth in FCEV sales returned in 2021. Around 9,000 FCEVs were sold in the first half of 2021 — nearly the amount sold in the entire 2020.

Moreover, just two companies — Hyundai Motor Company (OTC: HYMTF) and Toyota Motor Corporation (NYSE: TM) — account for more than 90% of FCEV sales in the first half of 2021. Hyundai sold roughly 5,000 units of its Nexo FCEV in the first half. This number increased to around 7,276 at the end of the third quarter. Notably, around 6,400 of these FCEVs were sold in the domestic Korean market. Toyota sold roughly 3,700 FCEVs in the first half of 2021. Roughly 52% of these were exported, while the remaining were sold in Japan.