What’s the latest buzz in the automotive industry? In this series, we present you a new highlight from the automotive business every quarter, as well as a short rundown by one of our experts on how it impacts the industry. For our KPI of Quarter 1/2020, we asked Martin Gehring and Matthias Riemer about the current status and development of hydrogen stations.
Fuel cells and hydrogen have been discussed as a possible solution to achieve clean mobility for many years now. The technology promises the possibility to refuel within a couple of minutes and at a range that is comparable to traditional combustion engines at zero emissions.
Volkswagen is still working on the technology, but recently announced that it would focus mainly on battery electric vehicles in the coming years. Other manufacturers have already gone one step further and introduced models like the Toyota Mirai, Hyundai Nexo, and the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell. Although still only produced in small volumes, the existing models have proven that the technology actually works. Experts see the benefits, especially when it comes to heavy vehicles such as buses and trucks.
One key discussion around the future of hydrogen is the number of stations that are available to refill a vehicle. On the one hand, nobody will buy a car that cannot easily be refilled. On the other hand, nobody wants to invest in the infrastructure if there is no demand.
In Germany, this dilemma is being addressed by H2 Mobility. H2 Mobility is a joint partnership of several industry players receiving additional public funding. In 2020 they will achieve a total of 100 operational stations in Germany, reaching six million people. “The infrastructure would enable these people to do 90% of their long-distance trips with a maximum detour of 5km to the next hydrogen station” says Nikolas Iwan, CEO of H2 Mobility.
In the mid-term, this number of stations is planned to continue to grow as the vehicle numbers ramp up in the future. In addition, small scale hydrogen stations have gained publicity in the last months. The concept builds on electrolysis “at home” using a system that is more or less the size of a fridge. It will be interesting to see how this concept is adopted by potential customers. For most customers who have the opportunity to charge at home, it might be easier to charge a normal BEV vehicle overnight instead of running a miniature hydrogen station at home.
In any case, it will be crucial to increase the number of hydrogen stations to further increase the attractiveness of fuel-cell vehicles. Given the mentioned dilemma, Germany seems to be well on its way. Now it is also in the hands of manufacturers to expand the range of vehicles at reasonable prices.
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Read more from our previous year's Automotive KPI of the quarter series:
KPI of the Quarter 3 (2019): Cold-start pollutant emissions
KPI of the Quarter 4 (2019): Car Delivery Lead Times and Underestimated Upselling Potential