Analysis of Fuel Cell Markets in Japan and the US: Experience Curve Development and Cost Reduction Disaggregation:
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Analysis of Fuel Cell Markets in Japan and the US: Experience Curve Development and Cost Reduction Disaggregation:

  • Author(s): Wei, Max
  • Smith, Sarah J.
  • Sohn, Michael D.
  • et al.

Fuel cells are both a longstanding and emerging technology for stationary and transportation applications, and their future use will likely be critical for the deep decarbonization of global energy systems. As we look into future applications, a key challenge for policy-makers and technology market forecasters who seek to track and/or accelerate their market adoption is the ability to forecast market costs of the fuel cells as technology innovations are incorporated into market products. Specifically, there is a need to estimate technology learning rates, which are rates of cost reduction versus production volume. Unfortunately, no literature exists for forecasting future learning rates for fuel cells. In this paper, we look retrospectively to estimate learning rates for two fuel cell deployment programs: (1) the micro-combined heat and power (CHP) program in Japan, and (2) the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) in California. These two examples have a relatively broad set of historical market data and thus provide an informative and international comparison of distinct fuel cell technologies and government deployment programs. We develop a generalized procedure for disaggregating experience-curve cost-reductions in order to disaggregate the Japanese fuel cell micro-CHP market into its constituent components, and we derive and present a range of learning rates that may explain observed market trends. Finally, we explore the differences in the technology development ecosystem and market conditions that may have contributed to the observed differences in cost reduction and draw policy observations for the market adoption of future fuel cell technologies. The scientific and policy contributions of this paper are the first comparative experience curve analysis of past fuel cell technologies in two distinct markets, and the first quantitative comparison of a detailed cost model of fuel cell systems with actual market data. The resulting approach is applicable to analyzing other fuel cell markets and other energy-related technologies, and highlights the data needed for cost modeling and quantitative assessment of key cost reduction components.

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