Between Oct. 10 and 12 last year, the 16th World of Energy Solutions took place on Stuttgart’s trade show premises – which was good news, considering that Landesmesse Stuttgart and e-mobil BW had previously done little to nothing to support a 2016 implementation. It made the reduction in the number of exhibitors and attendees seem less important and easier to bear. After many long faces on the first day, the mood did improve on the second thanks to an increased interest in the event.
Traditionally, the WES is not one for stunning product showcases. The focus of the Stuttgart event is rather on talks with professionals and colleagues during conference breaks – either at trade show booths, in the hallway of the exhibition area or at the counter of the coffee bar. Wherever you went, you could hear over and again how unfortunate it was that fewer attendees were coming to the International Congress Center in Stuttgart. But almost everyone agreed that one or two professional conversations could justify the – sometimes – considerable effort of a trip to or the installation of an exhibit on the premises.
Additionally, no one seriously doubted the importance of an international fuel cell conference. Just the opposite: For industry stakeholders to be meeting in Stuttgart each fall, the f-cell has had such a long history that hardly anyone would want to see it disappear. It’s no wonder that the event again boasted more than 125 presentations last year.
Beware of “overpromising”
Another central issue during the WES was an idea that had been suggested in political circles shortly before the event started: to ban fossil fuel engines in new cars starting in 2030. Winfried Hermann, state minister for transportation and infrastructure in Baden-Württemberg, alluded to it during his press conference when he said: “…
Franz Untersteller, the state’s environment minister, promised in his opening speech at the start of the conference: “We have a clear lead in hydrogen and fuel cell technology development and need to take advantage of it.” Conversely, Franz Loogen, chair of e-mobil BW, urged all stakeholders to be more careful when communicating objectives. He warned against “overpromising,” since that would only generate expectations too high to be fulfilled. He said that you could only speak of “market maturity” if availability was almost at the maximum. Else, disappointment might tarnish a brand’s image and drive consumers away.
“Right now, we’re not on a path to save the environment. This is why I call for a transformation of the energy and transportation industry. […] We can do it, but the question is how fast we want an implementation. […] In the end, however, the citizens of this country will judge the new offers, be it as car buyers, consumers or road users.”
The mood was much more optimistic among employees of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems. During the World of Energy Solutions, Christopher Hebling, director of the hydrogen technology division at Fraunhofer ISE, put his signature under a cooperation agreement with the American National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The goal of this German-American venture is to intensify joint research activities in H2 and fuel cell applications in the hopes of providing considerable impetus to advancements particularly in electrolyzers, H2 infrastructure, H2 systems integration with energy grids and stack development.
The people at the booth of the German Aerospace Center were similarly confident about technological prospects. Professor Josef Kallo reported on the initial flight of a four-seat passenger airplane called HY4, which is powered by fuel cells (see Launch of Emission-Free Passenger Aircraft Hy4). Norbert Witteczek from Smart Testsolutions was looking …
The new and remarkable thing about last year’s f-cell award ceremony was the high number of foreign applications: Half of the 24 submissions did not come from Germany. Thus, it’s no wonder that Solaris Bus & Coach, a Polish business, won first prize in the category “products & market.” The award was for the first electric low-floor bus designed in Europe, the Urbino 18.75 electric, which is equipped with a fuel cell (101 kW; manufactured by Ballard) to extend its range. Two units have already been in use on the Innovation Line 109 of Hamburger Hochbahn since December 2014 (see HZwei issue from January 2015). During the IAA Commercial Vehicles 2016 in Hanover, the model was awarded Bus of the Year 2017. In October 2016, Solaris signed a contract for the delivery of ten low-floor 18.75 trolley buses that are to be equipped with a fuel cell to extend their range.
Panel member Matthias Altmann explained: “The electrification of vehicle fleets of large city-owned transportation companies is being slowed down by the few commercially available zero-emission city models. Hamburg and Berlin intend to buy 200 emission-free buses each year from 2020 onward – which offers all manufacturers great opportunities.”
First place in the category “research & development” went to the Jülich Research Center. Its PRECORS project laid the foundation for reducing the size of fuel cells by 60 percent and their weight by 80 percent. Vitali Weißbecker, one of the award winners, told H2-international: “Our team of six …
The next World of Energy Solutions will take place together with the 30th International Electric Vehicle Symposium from Oct. 9 to 11, 2017, in Stuttgart. EVS30’s call for papers has already started and ends on Jan. 20, 2017.