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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Commercializing Light-Duty Plug-In/Plug-Out Hydrogen-Fuel-Cell Vehicles:“Mobile Electricity” Technologies, Early California Household Markets, and Innovation Management


Starting from the premise that new consumer value must drive hydrogen-fuel-cell-vehicle (H2FCV) commercialization, a group of opportunities collectively called “Mobile Electricity” is characterized. Mobile Electricity (Me-) redefines H2FCVs as innovative products able to import and export electricity across the traditional vehicle boundary. Such vehicles could provide home recharging and mobile power, for example for tools, mobile activities, emergencies, and electric-grid-support services. To characterize such opportunities, this study first integrates and extends previous analyses of H2FCVs, plugin hybrids, and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) power. It uses a new electric-drive-vehicle and vehicular-distributed-generation model to estimate zero-emission-power vs. zeroemission- driving tradeoffs, costs, and grid-support revenues for various electric-drive vehicle types and levels of infrastructure service.

Next, the initial market potential for Me-enabled vehicles, such as H2FCVs and plug-in hybrids, is estimated by eliminating unlikely households from consideration for early adoption. 5.2 million of 33.9 million Californians in the 2000 Census live in households pre-adapted to Me-enabled vehicles, 3.9 million if natural gas is required for home refueling. The possible sales base represented by this population is discussed. Several differences in demographic and other characteristics between the target market and the driving-age population are highlighted, and two issues related to the design of H2FCVs and their supporting infrastructure are discussed: vehicle range and home hydrogen refueling. These findings argue for continued investigation of this and similar target segments—which represent more efficient research populations for subsequent study by product designers and other decision-makers wishing to understand the early market dynamics facing Me- innovations.

Next, Me-H2FCV commercialization issues are raised from the perspectives of innovation, product development, and strategic marketing. Starting with today’s internalcombustion hybrids, this discussion suggests a way to move beyond the battery vs. fuelcell zero-sum game and towards the development of integrated plug-in/plug-out hybrid platforms. H2FCVs are described as one possible extension of this Me- product platform for the supply of clean, high-power, and profitable Me- services as the technologies and markets mature.

Finally, the major findings of this study are summarized and directions for future work discussed. Together, the parts of this Mobile Electricity innovation assessment reveal an initially expensive and limited but compelling (and possibly necessary) set of opportunities to help drive H2FCV and other electric-drive-vehicle commercialization. Keywords: Hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle, Mobile Electricity innovation, Plug-in hybrid, Plug-out hybrid, Vehicle-to-grid power, Vehicular distributed generation, Household market potential, product development, market development.

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