Automobile manufacturers are forging alliances in hopes of marketing fuel cell vehicles in the very near future. How well they succeed will be determined by a number of factors. Experts will be discussing these issues at the f-cell international fuel cell conference and trade fair in Stuttgart.
BMW, Daimler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Renault, Toyota, Volkswagen – the list of automobile manufacturers pursuing plans to market hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles has grown longer. Several producers are now planning to launch serial production as early as 2014/2015 or 2017.
International cooperation is essential – f-cell provides a platform for dialogue
A successful market launch will require more than just attractive vehicles. "The development of a broad-based hydrogen (H2) refuelling station infrastructure will be a crucial success factor. Therefore, political decision-makers, energy suppliers and automobile manufacturers need to pursue intensive international dialogue devoted to meeting the corresponding prerequisites," explains Prof. Dr. Herbert Kohler, Director, Group Research & Sustainability at Daimler AG. One platform for this dialogue is the annual f-cell fuel cell conference and trade fair. The event will take place under the umbrella of the "WORLD OF ENERGY SOLUTIONS" in conjunction with the BATTERY+STORAGE and e-mobil BW TECHNOLOGIETAG (technology day) conferences and trade fairs and the Solar Energy Solutions conference. More than 140 top-flight speakers from Germany, Belgium, China, Denmark, Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Canada, Korea, Austria, Switzerland, South Africa and the U.S. will be reporting on a wide range of topics at the conferences.
The refuelling infrastructure: a prerequisite for market success
Without a sufficient number of public hydrogen refuelling stations the demand for electric cars equipped with fuel cells will remain low. Conversely, if only a few hydrogen powered vehicles are on the road in Germany, investing in an infrastructure will hardly be worthwhile – a classic chicken-or-egg problem. Therefore, automobile manufacturers, oil companies, gas suppliers and members of the political community have joined forces under the flag of the Clean Energy Partnership (CEP) for the purpose of developing the necessary infrastructure. Fifteen publicly accessible hydrogen refuelling stations are already operating in Germany.
Long-term goal: 1,000 hydrogen refuelling stations in Germany
"We expect to have 50 stations in operation in Germany by 2015. They will be needed to serve the major metropolitan areas and the major traffic and transport routes in between," explains f-cell speaker Markus Bachmeier of Linde. "Linde is planning and building 20 of these stations in cooperation with Daimler. We're going to need about 150 hydrogen refuelling stations nationwide in the medium term and roughly 1,000 farther down the road." Japan has also set a target of 1,000 hydrogen refuelling stations. "According to estimates, two million fuel cell cars will be on the road in 2025. At that point, the refuelling stations will be able to operate economically," says Tetsufumi Ikeda from the HySUT initiative, who will also be speaking at the f-cell conference. Catherine Dunwoody of the California Fuel Cell Partnership reports that 68 hydrogen refuelling stations will be needed to serve the estimated 30,000 fuel cell vehicles marketed during the first commercial phase in California. Eight of these H2 stations are already open, and 14 more are currently in the planning phase.
Reducing costs through continuing development and standardization
A hydrogen refuelling station costs roughly one million EUR today. "Further advances in the development of expensive, failure-prone components such as accumulators, compressors and pre-coolers could contribute to reducing costs in future. By standardizing refuelling station concepts, we can also help lower costs and enhance reliability and user-friendliness at the same time," notes Dr. Manuel Schaloske of e-mobil BW. A study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) was recently released as part of the series of publications issued by the state agency and will be discussed by ISE expert Dr. Tom Smolinka at the f-cell conference.
Fuel cell buses: experience in Hamburg
For fuel cell buses that return to their base stations daily and refuel there, increasing the number of hydrogen refuelling stations is not the crucial issue. Heinrich Klingenberg will be reporting on experience gained by the Hamburg Public Transport Network with a new generation of fuel cell hybrid buses. These vehicles recover energy – during braking, for example – and store it in a battery that is capable of supplying the engine with electrical power for certain periods of time. "This reduces hydrogen consumption from twenty to eight kilograms per 100 kilometres," explains Heinrich Klingenberg, who initiated extensive testing of the precursor models.
Reducing costs, building a supply chain, generating user enthusiasm
In addition to the key theme of infrastructure development, this year's f-cell conference will also focus in several different forums devoted to a diverse range of other issues of relevance to the successful introduction of fuel cell vehicles to the market. International vehicle manufacturers including Daimler, BMW and Toyota will be presenting their current activities in the field of passenger vehicle technology. Other experts will be presenting successful pilot projects and innovations relating to fuel cell powered buses and lorries. In another session, speakers from Daimler, Ballard and Siemens will show how they are reducing the costs of fuel cell systems and building reliable supply chains for the required components.
The complete conference programme and further information are available at www.f-cell.de and www.world-of-energy-solutions.de.