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Why German carmakers are using hydrogen to hedge green bets

Munich — Battery power could be a front runner for future automotive technology, but don’t rule out the vulnerable hydrogen..

That is the view of some major automakers, including: BMW When AudiDeveloping a prototype of a hydrogen fuel cell passenger car with a fleet of batteries Car as part Preparing to abandon fossil fuels.

They are hedging their bets, Calculation Political wind changes can shift the balance to hydrogen in the industry formed by early activists. Tesla Decided to go on a battery-powered path Clean car..

The global car hub Germany is in the spotlight. Already betting billions of dollars on hydrogen fuel in areas such as steel and chemistry to meet climate goals, Greens could join a coalition government and further advance technology in this month’s close elections. I have.

BMW is the largest supporter of hydrogen among German automakers, paving the way for a mass market model around 2030.The company also has Europe China, The world’s largest automobile market.

Munich-based premium players have developed a hydrogen prototype car based on that base X5 SUV, a project already partially funded by the German government.

BMW’s vice president, Jürgen Grudner, who heads the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle program, told Reuters that automakers will build nearly 100 test fleets in 2022.

“We are ready for the product, whether this (technology) is driven by politics or demand,” he added, adding that his team is already working on the development of the next generation of vehicles. ..

“We are on the verge of getting there and we are really confident that we will see a breakthrough in the last decade,” he said.

VW’s Premium Audi brand told Reuters that it has formed a team of more than 100 mechanics and engineers studying hydrogen. Fuel cell On behalf of the entire Volkswagen Group, he produced several prototype cars.

Now too expensive

Hydrogen is considered a solid bet by the world’s largest truck makers, including: Daimler Unit Daimler Trucks, Volvo Trucks, Hyundai, battery Too heavy for long-distance relationships Commercial vehicle..

However, fuel cell technology, in which hydrogen passes through a catalyst to generate electricity, is currently too costly for mass market consumer vehicles. The cell contains complex and expensive materials, and refueling is faster than recharging the battery, but it lacks infrastructure.

The fact that hydrogen is far behind in competing for affordable markets is the fastest way for even some champions of technology, such as Germany’s Greens, to reach the main goal of decarbonization. Transportation means that you prefer to prioritize driven passenger cars.

However, Greens is backing the use of hydrogen fuel in ships and planes and wants to invest heavily in “green” hydrogen produced solely from renewable resources.

“Hydrogen will play a very important role in the transport industry,” said Stephen Gervar, a federal party transport policy spokesman.

But politics can be unpredictable — Diesel has gone from saint to sinner after Volkswagen’s diesel gate emission fraud scandal unveiled in 2015.Some automakers use hydrogen technology insurance The EU has a policy to aim for an effective ban on fossil fuel vehicles from 2035.

Daimler announced last year that it would discontinue production of the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL hydrogen fuel cell SUV, but sources familiar with the company’s plans can easily bring the project back with the European Commission or the German government of Green. He said he could.Participation decides to promote Hydrogen car..

“We first focus on (battery) electricity, but we work closely with the truck people,” said Jörg Demus, Daimler’s production manager, about the approach. I said when.

“Technology is always available.”

180 km / h with hydrogen X5

For many years, Japanese automakers Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and South Korea’s Hyundai have been working independently on the development and promotion of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, but now they have a company.

China is expanding its hydrogen fuel infrastructure, and several automakers are currently working on fuel cell vehicles, including Great Wall Motors, which plans to develop hydrogen-powered SUVs.

The EU wants to build more hydrogen fuel stations for commercial vehicles. Given that Fitch Solutions car analyst Joshua Cobb is still thinking about how to pay for pushes on battery-powered electric cars and how to get enough “green”, Block will be a hydrogen passenger car a couple of years later. He said he was likely to start pushing. Hydrogen from renewable resources.

But he added, “it’s not out of the question that if the (Germany) Greens take power, they can accelerate the move to adopt regulations in favor of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.”

BMW’s Guldner admitted that hydrogen technology is too expensive to implement in today’s consumer market, but said it would cut costs as truck companies invested in technology to bring fuel cell vehicles to market on a large scale. Stated.

To demonstrate BMW’s hydrogen X5 prototype, Grudner spins Reuters at 180 km / h (112 mph) in an autoburn near the automaker’s Munich headquarters and runs 500 km using a hydrogen gas pump in minutes. Gave enough fuel to. Total gas station.

According to Grudner, BMW sees hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as “complementing” the range of future battery-powered electric models, providing an alternative for customers who cannot recharge at home and want to travel far and refuel quickly. Offers. The hydrogen X5 motor is the same as BMW’s all-electric iX.

“When the future is zero Emissions, I believe that having two answers is better than one, “he added.

Long winding road

Still, Fitch Solutions’ Cobb said it would be years before European policy support for hydrogen vehicles could generate significant sales.

In fact, automotive consultancy LMC predicts that the various uses of hydrogen in commercial vehicles, aviation, and energy storage will spur adoption in passenger cars, but in the long run.

“We’re not going to get there right away,” said Sam Adam, senior drivetrain analyst at LMC. LMC predicts that the 2030 hydrogen fuel cell model will account for only 0.1% of sales in Europe, with sales increasing only after 2035.

There remains a division of technology outlook in the global automotive industry, and even within the automotive group.

For example, VW’s Audi unit may be studying fuel cells, but Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess is keenly aware of hydrogen vehicles.

“Hydrogen vehicles have proven not to be a solution Climate change“Fake discussions are a waste of time,” he said in a tweet this year.

Stephen Herbst, Toyota’s general manager in Europe, has a different perspective.

Regarding his role as a member of the Hydrogen Council business group, which predicts that hydrogen will power more than 400 million cars by 2050, Herbst said the government has set ambitious carbon reduction targets. He said he was confident that he would promote hydrogen with the battery. Electric car..

“I strongly believe this is neither a problem,” he added. “We need both technologies.”

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Why German carmakers are using hydrogen to hedge green bets

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