“Fuel cell cars are too expensive – and there’s no refueling infrastructure either.” You may hear a sentence like this one many times over. Both German-language magazine HZwei and English-language e-journal H2-international have reported regularly about new hydrogen filling stations (e.g., October 2017 issue of H2-international). So, let’s look at the price, which might be much lower than many Germans believe. If you factor in available incentives, an FCV such as the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell would cost only around EUR 42,000 instead of EUR 57,000 – that is if it were offered on the domestic market. But NOW confirmed that “this Honda model is currently unavailable in Germany.”
Hydrogen cars make up a negligible percentage of new vehicle registrations in the country today, as indicated by a total of only three people applying for a fuel cell incentive between July 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017. Conversely, the German Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control received 8,655 applications for battery-electric and 6,690 for plug-in hybrid vehicles – more than half of them from commercial buyers.
A short reminder: The economic incentive grants EUR 2,000 in federal subsidies and a further price reduction of the same amount is given by the car manufacturer, which means that customers can cross EUR 4,000 off their bill. For example, it reduces the price tag of a Toyota Mirai (EUR 78,600) by 5 percent. But much more is possible: A relatively new project can help buyers recover two-fifths of the added cost for buying an FCV.
Forty percent off the price difference
On March 1, the government introduced the Funding Guideline for Market Activation Measures as part of Phase II of the National Innovation Program Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology. The guidance, which will be in effect until the end of 2019, is part of a government program designed to prepare competitive hydrogen and fuel cell products for market introduction. It makes it possible to offer subsidies in the form of non-repayable grants if the relevant project involves at least three fuel cell vehicles.
To be more precise, it covers up to 40 percent of the price difference between fuel cell and conventional vehicle technology. As NOW said, “Submissions must include quotes for both fuel cell and conventional models.” For example, Toyota’s Mirai counterpart is the Avensis, sold at a list price of EUR 24,790.
Eligible for grants are public and private corporations and individuals engaged in business or commerce. Especially German-based SMEs have been encouraged to apply. However, the grant cannot be combined with the economic incentive for electric vehicles.
Prices subject to change
At least, that’s the theory, because the calculation examples shown in the table will only be of use if a fuel cell car is available on the German market. So far, carmakers have manufactured only a few thousand units (see Hyundai in October 2017 issue of H2-international). They are primarily offered in Japan and California, while relatively few make it onto German roads most of the time. The domestic market saw merely two of the FCX Clarity, Honda’s first generation of fuel cell cars, delivered and both remained in the company’s possession. Asked about the automaker’s most recent model, Thomas Brachmann from Honda R&D Europe Germany replied, “The latest Clarity Fuel Cell is not sold in Europe.” In the States, it can be leased for USD 59,365.