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The fuel cell market is forecast to reach $598 million in 2010 and then grow to $1.22 billion by 2014, according to a new market study.
Analysts with SBI Energy say the fuel cell industry has emerged as an international heavyweight with the potential to reshape how energy is produced and used for residential and commercial consumption, transportation, and electronic devices.
Japan and the United States represented the two largest financial segments of the market last year.
Industry experts offer a wide range of predictions about which sectors will win the lion's share of the fuel cell market in the coming years. Some believe fuel cell cars will be widely available to buyers by 2015 , while others are more skeptical and believe it will be at least 2030 before they are a common sight on the road. Likewise, some industry watchers believe fuel cell powered automobiles will eventually dominate the market, while others believe fuel cell cars will be just one of many viable options.
Fuel cell pioneer Ballard Power Systems (TSX: BLD; NASDAQ: BLDP) sold the remaining stake in its automotive fuel cell business in December 2009.
The portable sector is the fastest growing market, but much of that current growth is due to toys and educational devices powered by low-watt fuel cells. Several companies, including Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies and Thames & Kosmos, have developed fuel cell car kits that allow children to assemble the car while learning the science behind fuel cell technology. Other products include remote-control toys powered by fuel cells.
However, the largest demand for fuel cells is currently for power generation units, which promise a greener energy source and a reduced dependence on foreign oil. "Commercial and public entities will likely lead the way in adopting fuel cell power sources, as these bodies are ever more aware of the economic and political advantages of adopting renewable energy sources," says SBI Energy publisher Shelley Carr.
Fuel cell company Bloom Energy made a big splash on the scene earlier this year with theintroduction of its generator units used by big-name companies like Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG).
SBI Energy estimates that, when fuel cell toys are taken out of the equation, the small stationary sector has historically been the leader in the industry since 2005. But niche transport (i.e., forklifts and other materials handling vehicles) was a breakout market in 2008 and 2009. Portable electronics other than toys are expected to gain momentum in the coming years, as well.
The SBI report focuses on historic growth (2005-2009) and growth potential (2010-2014) of the global market for fuel cells and discusses various fuel cell technologies currently used. The report segments the market by technology (type of fuel cell as defined by the electrolyte used) and application (stationary power, portable electronics, motor vehicles, backup power supplies, military & aerospace, and others).
Disclosure: no positions