More than 3,800 fuel cell systems have been installed and operated worldwide, according to a new report by online resource, Fuel Cell Today.
The first such systems were introduced in the 1950s and the improvement in performance and increase in the number of units since then has been impressive.
‘The 58% annual growth rate shown by last year’s figures is significant, following high growth rates in the preceding years’, commented Fuel Cell Today’s deputy editor and co-author of the new report, Mark Cropper. ‘For example, there has been significant growth in the automotive sector, with over 300 prototype vehicles built around the world since the mid-1990s.’
This growth is expected to continue as companies such as Toyota and Honda lease their first fuel cell automobiles and other uses for the technology continue to emerge. For example, Toshiba plans to sell a fuel cell powered laptop from 2004.
David Jollie, the website’s editor, noted the mix of applications revealed by this research. ‘Fuel cell technology has already shown its flexibility. Several hundred units have been used for stationary power generation and even a few submarines and motor scooters boast fuel cell power sources. However, in the longer term, fuel cells could become more important. For instance, we can easily envisage 10% and more of the car market using this technology.’
‘We have seen prototypes and early commercial units in many of these markets,’ continues Mark Cropper. ‘Interestingly, phosphoric acid fuel cells were almost the only type being sold until two years ago but they are already being overtaken by proton exchange membrane fuel cells, as the pace of development heats up.’