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Published on June 8th, 2016 | by James Ayre


Samsung SDI Drops Hydrogen Fuel Cells For Focus On Batteries For Electric Cars

June 8th, 2016 by  

Originally published on EV Obsession.

Samsung SDIIn an announcement that should surprise nobody who has truly been paying attention, Samsung SDI has apparently decided to close its hydrogen fuel cell division and focus new development resources on electric vehicle batteries.

The writing’s been on the wall for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for some time now — arguably, since they were invented. The economics just don’t make sense except perhaps in a few niche applications. So, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the giant Korean electronics firm has decided to shift its resources elsewhere.

What was the stated reason for dropping the division? According to a company rep, because the “outlook of the market isn’t good.”

No argument there from me. It seems to just be a matter of time at this point before the technology has zero-backing from any major auto-manufacturers.

“The same spokesperson said fuel-cell patents and equipment would be sold to a local company, but would not name the purchaser. Kolon Industries subsequently acknowledged that it had been approached by Samsung SDI about a deal on the equipment and related assets,” Green Car Reports notes.

“Samsung is in the midst of a larger process of cutting projects and product lines it believes to be unprofitable, and redirecting resources to only those it considers will remain core businesses.”

Accompanying the recent announcement was another that revealed the company’s plans to invest over 3 trillion won (~$2.5 billion) over the next 5 years into electric vehicle (EV) battery development.

On a related note, Hyundai recently announced that it is refocusing on electric vehicles (and away from hydrogen fuel cell vehicles) as well.

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Roger Pham

    Since Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda are so far advanced in FC
    techs, it is natural that Samsung would concentrate on battery tech
    for EV’s instead, especially with a potential large order from Tesla to
    come. What would be a better way to ensure commercial deals with a man
    who coined the words “Fool Cells” and who publicly declared that “FC is
    so “Bullsh*t”, than to stop development of FC?

    On a more serious note, the most promising way to accelerate FCEV’s sale is to follow Tesla’s footstep, by making FCEV’s so powerful and with so much
    ergonomics and with so much internal space that it will be competitive
    with all ICEV’s in the price range. This would mean much bigger battery
    pack to give a lot of instant power output, like over 200 kW or so,
    while downsizing the FC stack to 60-80 kW in order to cut cost, since FC
    still cost a lot per kW right now. The advantage of a 200-kW battery
    pack is that this pack would have to be at least 20-kWh of capacity for
    10-C discharge, and would make this high-power FCEV a Plug-in FCEV, or
    we can call it a PFCV for short. The “P” in PFCV can stand for both
    “Powerful” as well as for “Plug-in”.

    So, there will be plenty of work for Samsung to do to develop a 20-kWh battery pack with 200-kW of power burst yet compact and light enough to render plenty of internal space and plenty of performance, in order to launch PFCV’s into
    commercial success.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Roger. Hydrogen is simply too expensive. The FCEV is a dead evolutionary branch.

      (You’ve been told that hundreds of times now. You just can’t let the fantasy go, can you?)

      • Roger Pham

        Good points, Bob.
        1) Initial high-cost of Hydrogen can be overcome by the use of a Plug-in FCV (PFCV), because only 20% of driving distance will use H2.
        2) You’re right, though, in that mildly-powered FCV’s with compromised internal space won’t stand a chance against Tesla MS, MX and M3. It will take a completely revolutionized PFCV design (Powerful FCV and Plug-in FCV) with equal acceleration, handling, and internal space to the MS, MX and M3 in order to compete on equal footing. I think it’s doable, but we shall see.
        Perhaps the geniuses at Apple Computer will wring out the next i-Phone equivalence in EV’s, in having a light-weight vehicle with exceptional range for an EV, and fast-refill in 3-5 minutes. Oh, Mr. Steve Jobs, we all wish you’re still here with us!

        • Bob_Wallace

          PHEVs won’t survive much longer. It would make no sense to build a H2 infrastructure for a small number of short-lived PHEVs.

          We’re rapidly reaching the threshold where EVs take over. A good, solid 200 mile range. Purchase price parity with ICEVs. 80% charging in 30 minutes. Meet those criteria and it’s over for ICEVs.

          Over time battery capacity will increase, allowing longer range for those who need it. Charging times will decrease (Tesla is moving to higher output Superchargers). We’ll move through a series of milestones such as “EVs as affordable and usable as ICEVs” to EVs cost less than ICEVs” to “EVs not only cost less than ICEVs, they have longer range”.

          When we get to the point of an affordable EV with a solid 250 mile range (highway speeds in bad weather conditions) and 20 minute charging we will have arrived. From there on it’s gravy.

  • Tam Hunt

    About time. FCVs RIP. With a 2.3-3x hit in energy efficiency vs. battery electric vehicles they could never compete.

  • Foxy

    I’m not sure why this is much of a story. Samsung hardly had a fuel cell program, and it wasn’t very advanced. Makes sense for them to focus on batteries.

  • Jens Stubbe

    While not a big fan of hydrogen I do not think that pure EV’s is the right solution. For EV’s to succeed the renewables price drop has to end soon because Synfuels targeting normal cars will be a cheaper and faster route to decarbonize transportation.

    BASF and Halldor Topsoe also pulled the plug a few years ago but others persists so maybe it is too early to deem hydrogen abandoned.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Wind is moving toward 3c/kWh and, according to you, to 2c/kWh. That’s probably going to mean that the cost of charging EVs is going to move well below today’s average retail electricity cost of 12c/kWh. Let’s use 8c since PG&E is already offering EV charging for 9c in NoCal where there really isn’t yet much wind generation.

      8c/kWh, 0.34 kWh/mile. 2.7 cents a mile.

      Burn liquid fuel in a 40 MPG ICEV? You’d need $1.09/gallon fuel.

      Let us know when synfuel gets below $1/gallon. In fact, let us know when synfuel gets below $3/gallon.

      • Jens Stubbe

        The average US 20 year PPA in 2014 was $0.035/kWh on an unsubsidized basis. If you calculate the selling price over the entire 25 year lifetime we were already very close to $0.03/kWh.

        Since then Vestas at least has realized 9% annual price drop, so within design life the average new US wind turbine most likely produce electricity below $0.03/kWh.

        Yes it is going to be cheaper to ride cars to the point where it will cause even more congestion.

        EV’s will not make sense for the majority of car owners that have to make do with the cheapest option or need cars with particular features and among more wealthy individuals charging cost vs fuel cost probably have minimal influence on market decisions.

        40 MPG cars are fine by todays standards but not competitive with best of class and especially unlikely to be competitive with cars of the future.

        The spreadsheet I have provided you with indicate a price very close to $3/gallon so I will let you know :-/)

        • Bob_Wallace

          “EV’s will not make sense for the majority of car owners that have to make do with the cheapest option or need cars with particular features and among more wealthy individuals charging cost vs fuel cost probably have minimal influence on market decisions.”

          EVs are moving very rapidly toward purchase price parity with ICEVs. 2020, 2021 looks to be the approximate point. And then the price of EVs will likely drop below the price of same-feature ICEVs.

          The majority of car owners that have to made do with the cheapest option will purchase the least expensive car – the EV. And their purchase will be solidified by them also getting the least expensive car to operate – the EV.

          Cars will “particular features” will appear in EV form as the market expands. Right now choices are limited to luxury sedan, small/compact cars and one (?) SUV. Other options will be offered as manufacturer look for selling opportunities.

          The wealthy will probably not be as much influenced by operating costs, as you say. But quality of ride and convenience of not having to fuel up will win most over.

          “The spreadsheet I have provided you with indicate a price very close to $3/gallon so I will let you know :-/)”

          If someone can market synfuel in large quantities for $3/gallon that would be great news. It would (hopefully) mean we could have affordable low carbon flight.

          But, as you know, $3/gallon fuel can’t compete with even $0.12/kWh electricity. Synfuel would have to drop well under $1/gallon to be competitive.

          • Jens Stubbe

            A friend recently bought a top of the line Toyota Aygo for $13.000. Deduct taxes and profits, and that car is probably cheaper than most batteries installed in current EV’s. Peugeot 107 and Citroen C1 are identical say for the styling and a thousand dollars off. http://www.topgear.com/car-reviews/toyota/aygo

            If you go 10.000 miles annually then according to your numbers a 40 miles per gallon car will consume 250 Gallons at the total expense of $750 at $3/gallon vs 10.000 x 8c/kWh x 0.34 kWh/mile = $272

            So why do you argue that Synfuels needs to go below $3/gallon ?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Because that’s not a car most people would buy.

  • nakedChimp

    “The economics just don’t make sense except perhaps in a few niche applications.”
    The economics make sense for rent seekers, monopolists, market-cornerers.. πŸ˜‰

  • Toyota should come around quickly too. They are wasting their time and money on a dead end and loose to the competition in EVs.

    As a Prius owner there would be no question what brand I would by my next car from (an EV) but Toyota has no acceptable EV or PHEV models.

    • Lynne Whelden

      Prime coming up in the fall?

      • The Prime has only 22 miles of all-electric range which is very thin.

        I may be OK with a Chevy Volt (Opel Ampera here in EU) which has 40 miles, which covers at least the daily routine.

        • Lynne Whelden

          Very thin indeed. Maybe I’m exhibiting “wishful thinking,” counting on Toyota’s proven track record of underestimating mileage. (My Echo was rated at 38 mpg but consistently delivered 25-30 percent more.)


      I have had a Prius V and Toyota doesnot know how to make a hybrid let a lone a EV There Hybrid system is play with gas paddle to keep the car in hybrid.I now have a C-MAX ENERGI And Ford Focus electric, the Energi goes 65 mph in hybrid has better regen braking then Prius. I donot have to play with gas paddle to stay in hybrid. The designer of Toyota car for their pierce of junk hydrogen car looks like the designers our on drugs. Toyota needs to wake up and smell the Electic. Love the Ford Focus Electric car I have gone 10 to 16 miles in city on 2 miles of battery has the best regen braking, and go 100 to 110 miles on charge.Toyota is in LA LA land Wake Up.

  • eveee

    In with a bang, out with a wimped. FCEV seem to be slipping quietly into that gentle night. Poor Toyota. Haven’t got the message.

    • nakedChimp

      Put the the FCEV fanboys on that list as well. They’ll probably babble about that while they sit in their chair in the retirement-village and have heated talks with nuke fanboys about their compact-modular-gen4-thorium-whathaveyougot-nukes..

  • NorthP

    Finally Samsung copies an Apple concept that is worth commending them for. ‘Simplicity’

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