China EV Pioneer Touts Fuel Cell Buses

The next phase of China’s electrification efforts will focus on fuel cell vehicles, the vice chairman of China’s advisory body for policy making tells Bloomberg News.

Wan Gang, who as the country’s science and technology minister led the transition to electric vehicles, now is championing fuel cell power. He says the country is starting to develop an infrastructure for hydrogen production, storage, transportation and refueling.

Currently, there are only about 1,500 fuel cell vehicles on the road in China. This compares with about 2 million EVs in use there.

Hefty government incentives, which are now being phased out, drove China’s rapid growth in EVs. Wan notes that similar support for fuel cell vehicles likely will continue for several years.

Intra-city buses are one of the most promising applications for fuel cells. Whereas full-electric buses (which have a range of about 120 miles) are better suited for city applications, fuel cell buses can travel nearly three times as far before having to refuel. Fuel cell vehicles also can be refueled in about the same time as gasoline or diesel models.

China has an abundant supply of hydrogen, but there is no infrastructure with which to distribute the fuel. The high cost of fuel systems and the flammability of hydrogen also are concerns. Wan says he is confident such challenges can be overcome.