Though Market Drivers are Strong, Fuel Cells for Auxiliary Power Units Face Significant Technology and Regulatory Barriers

June 1, 2012

In 2010 commercial fuel cell shipments for auxiliary power units (APUs) reached just over 3,100.  APUs are production units that provide power for a vehicle’s hoteling loads – i.e., any electrical power that is required by the vehicle for purposes other than the primary propulsion system, including heating and lighting.  The market for the use of fuel cells as APUs is developing gradually, and growth in this sector should be slow but steady over the remainder of this decade.  According to a recent report from Pike Research, however, while there are strong drivers for growth in the market, technology readiness levels are not at a point where commercial rollout ‑ or even pre-commercial rollout ‑ can begin in anything but the RV and boating sectors.

“Unlike the other applications for which fuel cell technology is being developed, there are a number of non-trivial technological and regulatory barriers that need to be addressed for the marine and aviation sectors especially, and for trucking to a lesser degree, to see significant sales and deployments,” says research director Kerry-Ann Adamson.  “Even in the trucking sector, where technology developments are rapidly catching up with market need, projects are still in preliminary stages of development.”

Of the four potential sectors for the use of fuel cell APU units, aviation and marine have the potential to significantly reduce impact, in terms of energy consumed and pollution from use.  In the marine industry, the potential of using stationary fuel cells as ship-to-shore power providers (i.e., cold ironing) is exciting.  However, without some form of global standardization of interconnects and voltage onboard ships, both of which are currently missing, the rollout of this option will be hampered at best and prevented at worst.  Aviation is the sector with the longest development path and the largest barriers to entry.  The aviation sector will need some fairly fundamental breakthroughs before any adoption can take place in aircraft beyond military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Pike Research’s report, “Fuel Cells for Auxiliary Power Unit Applications”, analyzes the market potential for fuel cells to be utilized as APUs in marine, trucking, aviation, and RV markets. The study includes a comprehensive assessment of market drivers and barriers, technology issues, and key industry players in each of the four sectors. Forecasts are provided for each sector through 2020, including unit shipments, revenue, and total capacity in megawatts. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the firm’s website.

Contact: Richard Martin

+1 303 997 7609

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