Sobering News for Early Adopters of FCEV

F-cell-Wenger
Sometimes, the F-Cell was parked for weeks, © Wenger

People need to experience electric transportation on their own, something which is true for drivers of both battery and fuel cell cars. At least an adequate number of purely battery-driven vehicles have already made it onto the public roads in Germany. But how can people today gather their own personal experiences of driving fuel cell vehicles? Ordinary citizens will only have the chance to be allowed to take a short test drive during an industry trade show. David Wenger from automotive supplier Wenger Engineering was given the opportunity to lease and test a fuel cell car for two years. H2-international spoke with him about his experiences.

A lot has been accomplished with hydrogen cars: They were driven toward world records in top speed, used for a 30,000 kilometer ride around the globe, and tested for day-to-day use during numerous demonstration projects. But either the company-own engineering staff came along for the trip or they at least stood ready in the background to be called upon and take over the steering wheel or control of the car. The only “customers” who have so far been able to test the most recent fuel cell models – temporarily – were actors and actresses or politicians, and they had the necessary technical support staff stand by as well.

David Wenger was one of the first “regular” German customers who had leased, meaning who had actually been able to rent a fuel cell car for two years, and had tested it on public roads instead of taking it out once in a while for a short spin during a demonstration project. In a long conversation with H2-international, the managing director of a 19-employee SME told us about his experiences.

Bottom line after 1.5 years

Around one-and-a-half years ago, David Wenger traded in the Mercedes-Benz C-Class he had driven for eight years for a Daimler F-Cell B-Class and made the fuel cell model available to his employees as well. His initial assessment of the car’s capabilities was certainly a positive one: “The car performs as expected. It starts when I turn the key – always – and it gets me from A to B. Output is OK, but not more than that. After all, it’s not a sports car. One thing that really stands out is the cold-start behavior: Really incredible how reliable this process is – even under the most adverse conditions: when cold-starting the car several times per day, during short trips or at -10 °C and 30 centimeters of snow.“

Wenger added: “At first, I was pleased and proud to own a fuel cell car, as we are one of the world’s around 100 first ‘real’ customers of such a forward-looking car – you could even say: in the history of mankind.” However, he was little enthusiastic about the whole package: “In total, the results are sobering, sadly. That really hurts too.”

What happened? Why broken dreams despite a technology that works and a driver’s obvious enthusiasm for fuel cells?

What went wrong?

link-to-e-journal-web

Of course, Wenger wanted to know why the fuel cell car praised for its innovative design did not go over well with his staff. Some of his team’s answers surprised him, although he understood their reluctance to use the car:

  • “You need an additional …

Wenger echoed his staff’s sentiments: “I know this may come across as a petty complaint, but there’s …

Potential for improvement

Advice from Wenger

Emergency stop

“I remember that we once had a business appointment about 300 kilometers away. We were going to meet in the office at 5:45 a.m. At five in the morning, I received a text message from my employee: ’Sorry, I’m running late. The station doesn’t work. I need to drive to another one.’ I checked the map of H2 filling stations: green (operational). So what happened?

Early or too early?

Off target

Constructive criticism

“At the World of Energy Solutions 2015 in Stuttgart, I had the opportunity to give a presentation on my experiences as a paying (!) customer. And I provided the H2 community with honest feedback about what still needs to be done. The response was astounding, in a positive and negative sense… 

Author: Sven Geitmann

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