Hydrogen car, “future market” or a false fire?

Hard-to-copy electric cars

  There is no roar of the engine, nor the buzzing sound of an electric car, and the sound of the compressor working can be vaguely heard, but the driving, starting and acceleration experience is similar to that of an electric car – this is the actual experience of a hydrogen car.
  Hydrogen energy vehicles refer to new energy vehicles that use hydrogen fuel cells, that is, through combustion reactions, to convert chemical energy into electrical energy, thereby driving hydrogen energy vehicles, and the final emission is pure water. In the context of global energy transition, hydrogen energy has become one of the future energy sources that countries are betting on.
  At present, the strengths of different countries are different: Japan, which is better than renewable energy, leads in hydrogen fuel cell technology, Europe is more inclined to the upstream hydrogen production field, and China has the largest hydrogen energy market, taking the lead in the terminal landing.

The cost of the stack accounts for 60% of the cost of hydrogen fuel. Source: Debon Securities

  The breakthrough point for the large-scale commercialization of hydrogen energy is the automobile.
  ”China’s hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are like the state before the explosive growth of pure electric vehicles.” At this year’s Zhibo Expo, a person in charge of a Chongqing car company judged. According to the statistics of the hydrogen energy database of the Orange Association, as of the end of 2021, the number of fuel cell vehicles in China is 8,938, ranking third in the world; the domestic hydrogen production capacity is about 33 million tons per year, ranking first in the world.
  However, as a new energy vehicle that starts at the same time as electric vehicles, the development of hydrogen vehicles can be regarded as a turtle.
  The time when the Chinese government promoted hydrogen vehicles can be traced back to 2000. At that time, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, pure electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles were regarded as new energy vehicle technologies and included in the national major scientific research plan; after the launch of subsidies for private purchase of new energy vehicles in 2009, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles were The cost is high, and the maximum subsidy for a bicycle can reach one million yuan, far exceeding other types of new energy vehicles.
  Unlike electric cars that rely on energy storage to obtain electricity, the fuel cells of hydrogen cars are equivalent to power generation devices, and the cost accounts for about 60% of the cost of the entire vehicle. When hydrogen and oxygen enter from the inlet of the stack, electric current is generated after a certain electrochemical reaction to drive the vehicle. Among them, the stack is composed of membrane electrodes and bipolar plates, and the hydrogen system includes an air compressor, a hydrogen storage bottle, and the like.
  ”Hydrogen vehicles are much more complicated than pure electric vehicles” has always been the consensus in the industry. Due to technical bottlenecks, the development of hydrogen vehicles has always lagged behind electric vehicles.
  However, after the “dual carbon” goal was put forward in 2020, the development of hydrogen energy once again received policy support and became a market hotspot. In March this year, the National Development and Reform Commission announced the “Medium and Long-Term Plan for the Development of the Hydrogen Energy Industry” (hereinafter referred to as the “Plan”), which clearly stated that by 2025, the number of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in China should reach 50,000. At the same time, the local attitude towards the development of the hydrogen energy industry has turned positive. At present, nearly 20 provinces have issued plans for the hydrogen energy or fuel cell vehicle industry.
  This also gives confidence in capital intervention. “Policies will bring about a certain market.” Ni Zhengyang of Debon Securities believes that, similar to the early stage of power battery development, fuel cells are also a typical policy-oriented industry. “The intensity of this round of policies is similar to The strength is far more than the government demonstration project more than ten years ago, and it has effectively stimulated the enthusiasm of the market.”
  In more and more deterministic policy signals, the capital market is eager to replicate the glory of lithium batteries, but on the other hand, the strong promotion of policies has not resulted in a qualitative change in hydrogen fuel cell technology, which is a great opportunity for the future market of hydrogen energy. a question mark.

As of April this year, more than 60% of the hydrogen energy industry investment events are related to fuel cells Source: Zero2IPO Research Institute data
fuel cell fire

  Although all parties have followed the policy guidelines to make bets, the development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is still being questioned.
  For example, driven by policies, the existing growth model of fuel cell companies is not benign.
  ”Policy guidance can release a certain market demand, but now the entire hydrogen energy industry chain is still in the stage of heavy technical investment and operating losses in the early stage, and the market size is less than one thousandth of the pure electric market.” An industry investor He said that due to the high purchase cost of the vehicle and the imperfect hydrogen energy infrastructure, many fuel cell vehicles are either government-purchased buses or commercial trucks in fixed scenarios, making it difficult for the passenger vehicle market to enter.
  The limitation of application scenarios has caused fuel cell companies to rely more on local government orders and subsidized blood transfusions, and the binding trend is obvious.
  ”The first fuel cell stock” Beijing Yihuatong’s annual reports over the years have all pointed out the operational risk of excessive customer concentration: in 2021, the sales revenue from the company’s top five customers will account for 84.16% of the total sales revenue. Among them, the proportion of sales to the largest customer Beiqi Foton is as high as 54.01%, and the main order is the service vehicles for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
  This makes the prospect of fuel cells worrying. On the one hand, due to the impact of the epidemic, local fiscal revenue and expenditure are generally tight, and the ability of local governments to burn money for fuel cell vehicles is increasingly limited; on the other hand, when downstream demand mainly comes from the government, the technical competitiveness of the fuel cell industry Will it give way to government resources and become the primary growth factor for enterprises?

Yihuatong’s top customers are too reliant. Source: Yihuatong Financial Report

  ”We want to see companies with technology content, not industries that rely on government resources.” The above-mentioned investors believe that companies that rely only on government relations and do not have core technologies have serious product homogeneity and are not beneficial to the entire industry. .
  The more important issue is that in the case of limited downstream landing scenarios, midstream fuel cell manufacturers already have signs of overcapacity.
  According to the “Planning”, by 2025, the number of hydrogen energy vehicles will be 50,000, but the projects that are currently ready to be put into production or announced to be done in various places have far exceeded this goal. “Last year, the sales volume of fuel cell vehicles was about 1,600, and this year, no matter how much it grows, it will only be a few thousand. However, the capacity of the built and under-construction stacks in China may reach about 100,000.” According to the judgment of practitioners of battery companies, the comparison In actual demand, the entire fuel cell industry chain, including core components such as membrane electrodes, bipolar plates, and gas diffusion layers, are already in excess.
  In order to compete for a limited market, price wars arise from time to time. Five years ago, the cost per kilowatt of the stack was about 10,000 yuan. By 2020, the Hongxin GI stack product released by Guohong Hydrogen Energy gave a “strategic cooperation price” of a minimum of 1,999 yuan/kW, becoming the first price. It dropped to 2,000 yuan of stack products; one month later, Hydrogen Power broke the low price record of Guohong Hydrogen Energy with a new product price of 1,699 yuan/kW; just one week later, the stack products announced by Visionox Hydrogen Rui The quotation is as low as 1199 yuan/kW.

  The result of the price war is directly reflected in the gross profit margin of fuel cell companies.
  Yihuatong’s financial report shows that in recent years, its operating cash flow has continued to be negative and losses have increased. From 2019 to 2021, the gross profit margin of the fuel cell system will drop from 47.2% to 40.44%. After deducting non-recurring gains and losses, the net losses will be 14 million yuan, 40 million yuan, and 178 million yuan respectively.
  Today, the entire industry is still in a period of high investment in technological iteration, its own hematopoietic capacity is insufficient, and the cost is difficult to compress. In the future, fuel cell companies will still rely on investment and financing for blood transfusion.

The future market is not just cars

  Since it is not easy to replicate the success of the electric vehicle industry chain by relying on policies, exploring the application of hydrogen energy in industry, power and other fields has become the next goal of investment institutions.
  ”Fuel cell companies are now in a state of false fire, and there is a tendency to go back to the old road of the photovoltaic industry, so we are also looking at other application fields of hydrogen energy, such as hydrogen production from renewable energy, hydrogen energy storage, etc.” Ni Zhengyang said.
  Hydrogen does not exist alone in this world, it requires four processes: hydrogen production, hydrogen transport, hydrogen storage, and hydrogenation. In the context of “double carbon”, upstream links have also received attention.
  As an industrial raw material, hydrogen is more used in the synthesis of ammonia, synthesis of methanol, refining and other industrial fields. However, for a long time, industrial hydrogen has been mainly produced by coal-to-hydrogen and industrial by-product hydrogen, which is accompanied by “grey hydrogen”, which is accompanied by carbon emissions. This market is optimistic.
  Green hydrogen refers to the use of solar, wind and other renewable energy sources to produce hydrogen energy. Nowadays, it is the general trend to replace gray hydrogen with green hydrogen. Compared with the slow development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, the application prospects of green hydrogen in the industrial field are more certain. After all, this is a long-standing “existing market”. The above-mentioned “Plan” also pointed out that green hydrogen will be the focus of future development. By 2025, the hydrogen production from renewable energy will reach 100,000 to 200,000 tons per year, becoming an important part of the increase in hydrogen energy consumption.
  However, the difficulty of large-scale green hydrogen is that the cost is too high, and the large-scale and cheap green hydrogen production technology is not yet mature. It is understood that the current cost of green hydrogen is about 35 yuan/kg, which is several times higher than the cost of industrial by-product hydrogen of 10 to 15 yuan/kg. The cost mainly comes from the energy cost of photovoltaic and wind power and the cost of electrolysis water hydrogen production equipment.
  Another key application area is energy storage.
  ”Hydrogen energy storage has the advantages of large scale and cross-season energy storage.” Deng Jianling, general manager of Huaneng Group, believes that the energy attributes of electricity and hydrogen are complementary, and electricity is difficult to store. It has an irreplaceable role in regulating energy.
  However, the technical bottleneck of storage and transportation equipment still needs to be broken through. Hydrogen storage and transportation methods mainly include pipeline hydrogen transportation, high-pressure tank truck hydrogen transportation, liquid hydrogen, and synthetic ammonia transportation. A key factor in cost reduction in the industrial chain.
  Taking the hydrogen refueling station as an example, according to the analysis of Guolian Securities, the cost of hydrogen production is about 20 yuan/kg, but the terminal price of the hydrogen refueling station is 80 yuan/kg, and the storage and transportation cost accounts for the absolute majority, which limits the use of hydrogen energy. Mass popularization.
  However, the difficulty of breaking through the bottleneck of electrolyzed water hydrogen production equipment and large-scale hydrogen energy storage and transportation technology is not unique to China. From a global perspective, hydrogen energy is still in the early stage of industrialization. participants to prove it.

error: Content is protected !!