China Could Have a Million Hydrogen-Powered Vehicles on Its Roads by 2035

24 Jun 2024

By Ly Yutong and Denise Jia

China’s hydrogen fuel cell vehicle market is revving up, with sales expected to hit 10,000 units this year, 50,000 units by 2025 and more than one million by 2035, according to Ouyang Minggao, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a professor at Tsinghua University.

China has established a comprehensive industrial ecosystem encompassing hydrogen production, storage, transportation and processing, Ouyang said at the 2024 International Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Vehicle Conference Wednesday.

Between 2020 and 2024, significant advances were made in the performance of commercial vehicle fuel cell systems, with lifespans increasing from 10,000 to 20,000 hours and costs dropping by 50%, according to Ouyang.

The rise of hydrogen energy, a zero-carbon secondary energy source, is in line with China’s goals for carbon peak and carbon neutrality. China is pushing to develop renewable energy sources as it strives to meet President Xi Jinping’s pledges to achieve peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060.

In March 2022, the National Development and Reform Commission unveiled a medium to long-term plan for the hydrogen energy industry’s development, putting hydrogen at the center of the future national energy system. The aim is to establish a complete hydrogen energy industry system within 15 years, with a target of 50,000 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2025.

In 2021, China began promoting hydrogen fuel cell vehicles through pilot programs in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong, followed by Hebei and Henan. These initiatives involve 41 cities with a target of deploying more than 35,000 fuel cell vehicles and constructing more than 500 hydrogen stations by 2025. Reducing hydrogen supply costs and advancing fuel cell materials research are also a vital part.

Fuel cell vehicle sales have shown robust growth, maintaining double-digit increases in recent years. According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, fuel cell vehicle sales reached 5,805 units in 2023, a 72% year-on-year rise. However, the momentum has slowed in 2024, with around 1,000 units sold in the first four months, only an 8.4% year-on-year increase.

At the moment, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are primarily used as commercial vehicles, due to high costs. A single hydrogen-powered heavy truck is more than1 million yuan ($138,000), making market promotion challenging.

Wang Zhao, chairman of new energy vehicle maker Zhizi Automobile Technology Co. Ltd., told Caixin that the key to market expansion lies in obtaining low-cost green hydrogen.

“If the price of hydrogen can drop to below 20 yuan/kg within the next four to five years, hydrogen heavy trucks may see significant development,” Wang said.

Compared with electric heavy trucks, which are becoming more economical, hydrogen fuel cell trucks are still in their early stages. Wang believes that both pure electric and hydrogen heavy trucks will play complementary roles in future: the former for short-distance transportation within 200 kilometers and the latter for longer distances.

Advances in battery technology and power networks could make electric trucks suitable for long distances, eventually converging with hydrogen trucks, Wang predicted.

Currently, hydrogen fuel heavy trucks are mainly used in sectors rich in hydrogen resources. For example, the steel industry generates hydrogen as an industrial by-product.

Hesteel Group Co Ltd. has been developing hydrogen energy heavy trucks since 2020, with 255 now on the roads. The company has established a hydrogen truck transportation route from Tangshan Port to Qinhuangdao, serving Hesteel.

Read also the original story. is the English-language online news portal of Chinese financial and business news media group Caixin. Global Neighbours is authorized to reprint this article.

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