Sales of new hydrogen fuel cell cars (FCEVs) hit a record quarterly high in California in the three months to June 2023, potentially ending a period in the doldrums that had led many to believe that the technology was in permanent decline in the US passenger vehicle market.

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But sales of FCEVs still lag far behind the runaway success of battery-electric equivalents in the state, which is the only region of the US where H2 vehicles and refuelling infrastructure are available.

Sales figures from the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Partnership show that car dealers shifted 1,076 FCEV models in the second quarter of 2023, up 34% on the same period in 2022 and up a massive 48% on the first three months of the year.

Q1 2023 had seen FCEV sales slump to just 725, a decline of 30%, which came on the back of an annual decline of nearly a fifth in 2022.

But the latest quarter’s figures amount to the highest ever for FCEVs in California, trumping the first three months of 2021 and 2022, which saw sales of 1,034 and 1,033 respectively.

As a result, year-to-date (January-June) sales of FCEVs are now at 1,801, approaching the 1,834 reported for the year to June 2022.

Moreover, one model accounted for the bulk of all sales: 1,054 units of the Toyota Mirai were sold, with the only other available model, the Hyundai Nexo, only selling 40.

But although the figures might represent a welcome turnaround for FCEV manufacturers, the technology still trails BEV sales by a factor of more than 100.

According to the California New Car Dealers Association, there were 191,041 new BEV registrations (including light commercial vehicles) in California in the first half of 2023, over 100 times the 1,801 FCEV vehicles sold.

BEVs accounted for 21.1% of all vehicles sales in the state between January and June, with FCEVs making up 0.2% of the total.