The on-going crash in global sales of hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles (FCEVs) in 2023 appears to be intensifying, with sales for the eight months to August falling by 15.5% compared to last year according to new data from Korean consultancy SNE Research.

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The first seven months of 2023 saw a fall of 9.6% year-on-year, suggesting that the decline is accelerating as the year progresses.

The most dramatic fall occurred in the number of buyers opting for Hyundai’s only hydrogen passenger car model, the Nexo, which saw sales decline 45.8%. This was mirrored by a 42.8% drop in FCEV sales in South Korea, the Nexo’s primary market.

The Nexo fall was partially offset by a rise in the number of car buyers opting for a Toyota Mirai, predominantly in the US. Sales of the FCEV rose 28% year on year, giving Toyota a 30% share of the market.

But Hyundai still dominates, with a 37.6% share comprising sales of the Nexo and the FCEV version of its electric bus, the Elec City.

SNE blamed the on-going decline on a lack of hydrogen filling stations and rising prices of H2 at the pump.

“The hydrogen vehicle market, which is falling short of expectations due to lack of hydrogen charging infrastructure [filling stations] and rising hydrogen charging costs, continues to record negative growth compared to the same period last year,” it said.

Korean drivers were furious earlier this year to learn that subsidised filling stations part-owned by Hyundai would be hiking their prices by a third, with Nexo owners expressing buyers’ regret.

And Californian FCEV owners have recently experienced both price spikes and supply squeezes, with the news that almost half of H2 filling stations are offline due to hydrogen supply disruptions.

And the head of South Korea’s mobility industry association told Hydrogen Insight last month that FCEVs are struggling to compete with battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) in the country, on account of poor availability of filling stations and reliable H2 supply.

BEVs have achieved economies of scale and subsequently taken a market lead, SNE said, but attention is now shifting to the heavy-duty market, where FCEVs could make inroads.

“In the commercial vehicle sector, hydrogen trucks are being developed by… Nikola, Iveco and Hyundai Motors,” it said. “The hydrogen vehicle market is expected to expand, centring on commercial vehicles.”