Bringing hydrogen fuel-cell technology from its current state to market viability will require substantial time and additional investment, according to the National Research Council (NRC).


A new NRC study estimates a total public-private investment of about $200 billion would be required from 2008 to 2023, at which point fuel cell vehicles would become competitive with gasoline-powered vehicles.

Another primary conclusion of the report is that a portfolio of technologies—including hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, improved efficiency of conventional vehicles, hybrids, and use of biofuels—has the potential to nearly eliminate gasoline use in light-duty vehicles by the middle of this century. These technologies could also reduce fleet greenhouse gas emissions to less than 20 percent of current levels.

Another conclusion of the report is that lower-cost, durable fuel-cell systems for light-duty vehicles are likely to be increasingly available over the next 5-10 years, and, if supported by strong government policies, commercialization and growth of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles could get underway by 2015.

The government cost to support the transition to the point where fuel cell vehicles would become competitive with gasoline-powered vehicles would be roughly $55 billion, according to the NRC. This funding includes a substantial research and development program ($5 billion), support for the demonstration and deployment of the vehicles while they are more expensive than conventional vehicles ($40 billion), and support for the production of hydrogen ($10 billion).