Worldwide sales of hydrogen-powered vehicles (cars, buses and trucks) fell by 11.5% in the first four months of 2023 on a year-on-year basis, according to data from South Korean consultant SNE Research.

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Only 4,699 fuel-cell vehicles were sold globally between the beginning of January and the end of April, compared to 5,307 compared to the same period a year earlier.

Japan saw the highest fall, with sales plummeting from 551 units in the first four months of 2022, to 138 in the corresponding months in 2023 — a 75% reduction.

Only China saw year-on-year growth, witnessing an increase from 438 vehicles in Jan-Apr 2022 to 1,145 — a rise of 161.4%.

“Although the FCEV sale[s] in Korea dropped 17.8% compared to the same period of last year, Korea still keeps the top position in the ranking of FCEV sale[s] with a 47.9% of market share thanks to the sale[s] of [Hyundai's] Nexo [fuel-cell car] in the Korean domestic market,” said SNE Research in a press release.

Global FCEV sales volumes from Jan to Apr 2023 (by country)

Country 2022 Jan-Apr 2023 Jan-Apr Growth rate 2022 market share 2023 market share
S. Korea 2,736 2,250 -17.8% 51.6% 47.9%
US 1,254 943 -24.8% 23.6% 20.1%
China 438 1.145 161.4% 8.3% 24.4%
Japan 551 138 -75.0% 10.4% 2.9%
Europe 286 207 -27.6% 5.4% 4.4%
Others 42 16 -61.9% 0.8% 0.3%
Total 5,307 4,699 -11.5% 100% 100%

“In China, where the sale of hydrogen commercial vehicle[s] has continued to rebound, the FCEV market turned to an upward trajectory.”

Chinese hydrogen truck maker Foton saw an 81.1% year-on-year growth rate, with Hyundai also selling units of its Elec City H2 bus, according to SNE (but without specifying how many).

As the table below shows, Hyundai manufactured more than half of all the FCEVs sold in the first four months this year, despite selling 21.6% fewer units compared to the same period in 2022.

Global FCEV sales volumes from Jan to Apr 2023 (by manufacturer)

Manufacturer 2022 Jan-Apr 2023 Jan-Apr Growth rate 2022 market share 2023 market share
Hyundai 3,068 2,405 -21.6% 57.8% 51.2%
Toyota 1,599 1,149 -28.1% 30.1% 24.5%
Foton 111 201 81.1% 2.1% 4.3%
Others 529 944 78.4% 10.0% 20.1%
Total 5,307 4,699 -11.5% 100% 100%

“With the sale[s] of Mirai [fuel-cell cars] by Toyota posting 1,149 units, a 28.1% YoY [year-on-year] decline, the market share gap between Hyundai Motors and Toyota was 26.7%,” SNE pointed out.

“On the other hand, those Chinese makers who’ve focused on hydrogen commercial vehicles have seen themselves in an upward trend.”

The Korean company adds that it expects the growth in FCEVs in China — particular in buses and trucks — to “continue at a gradual pace”.

It is worth pointing out that 2022 was a relatively good year for FCEVs, with the International Energy Agency reporting last month that sales grew by 40% in 2022, compared to 2021 — a total of more than 72,000 vehicles.

However, more than ten million non-hydrogen electric vehicles were sold in 2022 — a 55% increase on 2021 — with just under 30% of those being plug-in hybrids.