Fuel Cells in Asia

In Asia during 2008 the stationary fuel cell segment earned revenues of $142,000,000. This number is expected to jump to $1.9 billion by 2015 along with an estimated increase in the portable fuel cell segment of $12,000,000.

Japan

Japan has invested substantially and what it calls the “millennium project” for bringing fuel cells to residential and automotive markets. As of 2009, the project entered into its third phase, which is the commercialization of fuel cells. The purpose of the plan is to create positive market conditions that will motivate mass adoption by consumers.

With the help of government subsidies, hydrogen fuel cells are becoming popular means for electrical and heat generation in a residential units. While fuel cells cost upwards of 30,000 USD, the subsidy accounts for over half of that cost. This plan has good foresight given that major manufacturers of hydrogen fuel cells within Japan expect the cost to drop to around $5000 per unit within five years given the economy of scale produced by the subsidies.

The director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center in the United States has indicated that Japan is roughly a decade ahead in the residential fuel cell market even though the United States leads in the industrial sector. He indicates that the economy is part of the reason the United States has ceased to invest in research and development for residential fuel cells.

Korea

Companies like FuelCell Energy and ClearEdge have gained a strong foothold in South Korea given the government’s interest in renewable energy sources. Korea has implemented the renewable portfolio standard which supports fuel cells operating on natural gas and renewable by a gas. The plan indicates that fuel cells should supply 2% of the country’s power generation by 2012 and an increased by 0.521% every year after that to reach a total of 4% by 2016 and a total of 10% by 2022.

South Korea has also implemented a residential program called the “Million Green Houses Distribution Policy.” The policy aims to incorporate new and renewable energy into one million homes by 2020. Fuel cells qualify for this project, which has set aside subsidies of over 146,000,000 USD. The program has also mandated integration of fuel cells into public buildings such as schools, city halls, hospitals, ETC. As part of the program, the government is also offering long-term, low interest loans for consumers and manufacturers who installed new and renewable energy sources. As an added bonus, tax deductions and reduced tariffs are included as well.

In addition to stationary fuel cells, major manufacturers Hyundai and Kia have invested substantially in hydrogen fuel cells for transport purposes.

China

China is the fastest growing economy in the world. As a result of their rapid industrialization, the Chinese have been confronted with the rapid and substantial increase in air pollution, particularly in urban centers. In an effort to reduce the country’s air pollution and its dependence on imported oil, the government of China invested $1.8 billion in alternative fuel technologies in 2008.

The Chinese government has implemented a fuel cell road map. The plan includes 100 buses running on hydrogen fuel cells by 2010, an investment of $18,000,000 in a proton exchange membrane fuel cell development program, and a $165,000,000 research and development program designed to enhance advanced hybrid and fuel cell vehicles.