BOX 5.1

Projected Costs of Implementing Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Vehicles

According to a scenario developed in NRC (2008),


By 2023 (break-even year):

  • The government would have spent about $55 billion, including

    • $40 billion for the incremental cost of HFCVs,

    • $8 billion for the initial deployment of hydrogen-supply infrastructure, and

    • $5 billion for research and development.

  • About 5.6 million HFCVs would be operating.

By 2050:

  • More than 200 million HFCVs would be operating, and there would be

    • 180,000 hydrogen stations,

    • 210 central hydrogen-production plants, and

    • 80,000 miles of pipeline.

  • Industry would have profitably spent about $400 billion on hydrogen infrastructure.

increase from about $3 billion in 2015 to $8 billion in 2023, at which point more than 1 million HFCVs could be joining the U.S. fleet annually. The cost of hydrogen also would drop rapidly, and because the HFCV would be more efficient it would cost less per mile to drive than would a gasoline vehicle in about 2020. Combining vehicle and driving costs suggests that the HFCV would have lower life-cycle costs starting in about 2023. After that, there would be a net payoff to the country, which cumulatively would balance the prior subsidies by about 2028.

Substantial and sustained R&D programs will be required to reduce the costs and improve the durability of fuel cells, develop new onboard hydrogen-storage technologies, and reduce hydrogen production costs. Needed R&D investments are shown in Box 5.1. These programs would have to continue after 2023 to reduce costs and to further improve performance, but the committee did not estimate the necessary funding.

The 2008 National Research Council study determined the consequent



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