Investors need to be pragmatic about where they aim their cash flow and Uribe says it makes sense to look at EVs, which have a massive head start over fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). Market leaders like Tesla Motors, Nissan and General Motors – and charging suppliers like ChargePoint, NRG Energy and Car Charging Group – are already out there in the trenches delivering the cars and charging infrastructure. Of course, Nissan, GM and other OEMs are also working on hydrogen cars, with the first real production models due in 2015 or thereabouts.
The numbers tell the story. There are hardly any FCEVs on American roads today; a recent USA Today article said there were only 25 FCX Claritys being driven by lessors in California. The Mercedes Benz B-Class F-Cell is still in demonstration mode. EVs? 55,695 had been sold so far in the US as of August 31, 2013, according to Electric Drive Transportation Association.
The fueling infrastructure paints another bleak picture for FCEVs. For one thing, it costs a million dollars to install a hydrogen refueling station – and there were only 10 public stations in the US compared to over 6,000 public charging stations, according to US Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center. Nine of the hydrogen stations are in California fueling 25 FCX Claritys and those few F-Cells. California Fuel Cell Partnership forecasts that the state's number can grow to more than 25 by the end of 2014, but it's still not enough. FCEVs and hydrogen stations are seeing prices come down from enormous heights, but compared to EVs and charging stations, the technology is still a few laps behind in the race.