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Hydrogen fuel cell faces industrialization pain point

"In the future, new energy vehicles should develop toward" hybrid electric vehicles "and" hydrogen fuel cell vehicles ". "The state council has formulated a series of strategic plans to support the development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and relevant departments have also introduced policies to promote development. Recently, the vice chairman of the CPPCC national committee, the former minister of science and technology wan gang wrote.


At present, more and more enterprises are joining the fuel cell industry, including 41 Chinese complete vehicle enterprises, as well as automobile parts enterprises and industrial capital, which have increased their investment in hydrogen energy and fuel cell industry. In terms of market, the production of fuel cell vehicles reached 1,275 in 2017, up 103% year-on-year. The production volume from January to November in 2018 is 465, and it is expected to reach a large scale in December. However, compared with the sales figure of millions of domestic new energy vehicles in 2018, the current domestic fuel cell vehicle market size is still very small.


Hydrogen fuel enterprises told China business daily that the domestic promotion of hydrogen fuel cells is currently mainly limited by hydrogen storage and transportation technology and the construction of hydrogen refueling station infrastructure. Some enterprises choose to cooperate with domestic and foreign partners to promote the development of fuel cell industry.


High subsidies "do not move" industrialization


In recent years, the national financial support for the development of hydrogen fuel cell industry has been increasing year by year, and local provinces and cities are also making great efforts to support the development of local hydrogen energy and fuel cell vehicle industry. Since 2018, provinces and cities including Beijing, Shanghai, guangdong, wuhan and chongqing have introduced local subsidy policies for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.


According to statistics, up to now, the national key research and development program "new energy vehicles" key special project list has reached four batches, including nearly 827 million yuan for fuel cell vehicle research and development support funds. Since 2018 alone, research and development support for fuel cell vehicles has reached nearly 436 million yuan, involving six projects.


Driven by high subsidies, a number of listed companies have increased their presence in the hydrogen fuel cell industry chain. Data show that as of November 2018, China has 41 oems that have developed 56 fuel cell vehicle models and covered 25 fuel cell system companies. They are operating 17 hydrogen refueling stations and 45 hydrogen refueling stations are under construction. In 2018 alone, investment and planning funds related to the hydrogen fuel cell industry have exceeded 85 billion yuan.


Domestic hydrogen fuel cell development has been the industry and enterprises attention, but hydrogen fuel cell market explosion, still need a relatively long time. Data show that from January to November, the cumulative production and sales of new energy vehicles have reached 1.054 million and 1.03 million respectively, up 63.6% and 68% year-on-year from 2017. By contrast, the domestic market for fuel cell vehicles is still very small.


Many domestic enterprises are still in the research and development stage of hydrogen fuel cell. In the market size has not yet grown, many enterprises are still in the stage of input and output imbalance.


The pain of development is hard to overcome


Looking back on the development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, although the operating principle was proposed as early as 1893, it was not until 1994 that Mercedes Benz developed the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, and it was not until 2015 that Toyota launched the first mass production model. Technology and cost are significant challenges in the development and marketization of hydrogen fuel cells.


It is understood that hydrogen fuel cell catalyst is mainly used in platinum. The annual report on hydrogen energy and fuel cell in China 2018 mentions the scarcity of platinum resources, and the high price of platinum also makes the cost of fuel cell remain high, which affects its commercialization and popularization. In addition, platinum-based catalysts react with carbon monoxide, sulfur and other substances in the fuel hydrogen to inactivate them for catalytic action, leading to a reduction in the lifetime of the reactor.


"Catalyst platinum is one of the bottlenecks," the industry said. On the other hand, hydrogen fuel cells have the advantages of being more environmentally friendly, having longer driving range and being more convenient. However, the high cost and safety of hydrogenation limit its development. It is understood that domestic and foreign enterprises are also actively developing new catalysts to reduce costs.


The safety of hydrogen fuel cells is also a concern. People talk about the safety of hydrogen fuels on a public level, and even some of their lithium peers in academia. However, the explosive rate of hydrogen and oxygen is relatively low. At present, the development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles has been met with a lot of questions similar to that of lithium battery vehicles. How to obtain high purity and cheap hydrogen in practical applications is also an important challenge.


From the perspective of the industrialization process of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and related products in the international market, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the future may experience a long promotion period in China, and there are certain risks in market capacity and market development speed.


Internationally, fuel cells have made breakthroughs in key technologies, especially in life span, and have entered the stage of small batch trial operation and cost reduction. At home, the overall technology of fuel cell research and development lags behind the international advanced level. At present, the main technical risk of domestic fuel cell comes from how to reduce the cost of the system through technical means and improve the service life of fuel cell engine.


Core technology depends on foreign countries


Although the domestic industry and enterprises have begun to pay attention to the development of hydrogen fuel cell, but the overall show a "big thunder, little rain" situation, the development speed is too slow, and the foreign hydrogen fuel cell market in full heat formed a sharp contrast.


From the current national hydrogen fuel cell market, the main market share concentrated in Japanese enterprises, American enterprises. According to the global hydrogen fuel cell vehicle market report 2018 released by Information Trends, from 2013 to 2017, the cumulative sales volume of global hydrogen fuel cell vehicles reached 6,475, accounting for 75% of the remaining sales volume of Toyota hydrogen fuel cell vehicles except California.


In recent years, the commercialization of fuel cell vehicles abroad has been frequently reported. First, Toyota and Honda launched mass production fuel cell models and increased investment in the construction of hydrogen refueling stations. The core patents, core materials and components for hydrogen fuel cells are now largely from Japan.


Fuel cells abroad than domestic industrial development started early, foreign manufacturers to master the core technology of leading domestic enterprises at least 3 ~ 4 years, as countries pay more and more attention to in the development of clean energy, foreign competitors also gradually entered the Chinese market, price stability in technology and product for domestic manufacturers to form the competition. Due to the technology gap at home and abroad, many domestic hydrogen fuel cell enterprises need to choose the way of cooperation with foreign enterprises to obtain the corresponding technology.


Hydrogen fuel enterprises told reporters that domestic hydrogen fuel cell promotion is currently mainly limited by hydrogen storage and transportation technology and hydrogen station infrastructure construction. Some enterprises choose to cooperate with domestic and foreign partners to promote the development of fuel cell industry.


The technological advantages of foreign fuel cell companies are more reflected in fuel cell reactors, but there are differences between domestic and foreign automobile running conditions, so it is impossible to copy them into China. Therefore, foreign mainstream fuel cell manufacturers enter China mainly by seeking the mode of cooperation with domestic manufacturers to reduce their operational risks and policy risks.

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