Experience curve development and cost reduction disaggregation for fuel cell markets in Japan and the US

Publication Type

Journal Article

Date Published



Technology learning rates can be dynamic quantities as a technology moves from early development to piloting and from low volume manufacturing to high volume manufacturing. This work describes a generalizable technology analysis approach for disaggregating observed technology cost reductions and presents results of this approach for one specific case study (micro-combined heat and power fuel cell systems in Japan). We build upon earlier reports that combine discussion of fuel cell experience curves and qualitative discussion of cost components by providing greater detail on the contributing mechanisms to observed cost reductions, which were not quantified in earlier reports. Greater standardization is added to the analysis approach, which can be applied to other technologies. This paper thus provides a key linkage that has been missing from earlier literature on energy-related technologies by integrating the output of earlier manufacturing cost studies with observed learning rates to quantitatively estimate the different components of cost reduction including economies of scale and cost reductions due to product performance and product design improvements. This work also provides updated fuel cell technology price versus volume trends from the California Self-Generation Incentive Program, including extensive data for solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFC) reported here for the first time. The Japanese micro-CHP market is found to have a learning rate of 18% from 2005 to 2015, while larger SOFC fuel cell systems (200 kW and above) in the California market are found to have a flat (near-zero) learning rate, and these are attributed to a combination of exogenous, market, and policy factors.


Applied Energy



Year of Publication



346 - 357



Short Title

Applied Energy