From 1975 to 1985 the average fuel economy of the American car/truck fleet rose strongly, from ~14 to ~25mpg, as fuel injection, catalytic converter technology and six cylider engines came on the scene. Interestingly, the fuel economy stagnated, or actually fell somewhat over the next twenty years as technological advances waned and cars became steadily heavier with added safety features became.
However, from just 2005 to 2010, the average fuel economy has increased dramatically from 24 mpg to 28 mpg and is still climbing. Here, the experts claim smaller cars, more four cylinder engines and new technologies, especially in hybridization, have made the difference. By 2018, most cars will be hybridized to some extent and the average fuel economy for the American fleet will be an estimated 35 mpg.
The ratio of large/heavy vehicles to small cars will be a big factor. SUV and truck-type vehicles have always been popular and are expected to remain so as the fuel mileage penalty is less of a factor with hybridization of these vehicles as well. The rapid addition of electric vehicles is expected to add another big increase to the equivalent mpg going forward from 2015.
I always wonder how much of an impact the sales of hydrogen vehicles will have when the common gasoline ICE vehicle continues to be consumer friendly and cheaper to operate. Gasoline consumption is down over 6% in the US over the last decade and is on a course to continue declining for the foreseeable future as the supply/ demand situation seem to be improving for a variety of reasons. I still see hydrogen fuel cells as a niche item and not gaining any significant penetration for many years to come.
Can Ballard become a big niche player and achieve sustainable profitability? They are going to need a lot of price and sentiment improvements going forward to do so.