On Oct. 16, 2018, the eMove360° show in Munich was no longer an event that attracted mainly fans of battery-powered vehicles. For the first time, it featured a conference on fuel cell cars, attended by around three dozen people. However, the main question during this eMove360° Fuel Cell Conference, which took place at the same time as the show, was not whether battery or fuel cell vehicles would make it on the market but if and how the technologies could be combined.
Thomas Grube, who works for the Jülich Research Center and spoke during the conference, recommended the development of both transportation pathways. He said that the cost of each pathway depended mostly on how many vehicles would need to be supplied with fuel. He believes that hydrogen would beat electricity should the number of cars go into the millions. Still, he remarked that both pathways would cost a lot less than other parts of the infrastructure and that both would be needed to shift to more sustainable modes of transportation (see H2-international, April 2018). Jan Michalski, project manager at Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik, agreed and said that “the optimal solution would be to combine the two pathways, so that we could benefit from synergies.”
Korean carmaker Hyundai showed attendees what the fuel cell vehicle of the future could look like. Besides the Nexo, it presented a concept study of its first fuel cell truck, slated to hit the market in 2019. One person who is looking forward to the new vehicle with great anticipation is Philipp Dietrich, H2 Energy’s chief executive, as his company wants to get a thousand of Hyundai’s hydrogen-powered heavy-duty units onto Swiss roads by 2023. To this end, he formed a rather unusual partnership with Switzerland’s biggest supermarket chains, Coop and Migros, and farmers’ cooperative Fenaco, instead of enlisting the help of automakers and hydrogen producers.
All three businesses operate their own gas stations in Switzerland. Coop had a hydrogen fueling station built in 2016 (see Coop Sticks Around – Axpo Quits and Switzerland Opens New Chapter in H2 Development), with the fuel coming from an electrolyzer H2 Energy installed at a run-of-the-river hydropower plant in Aarau. At the event in Munich, Dietrich said that constructing a station paid off if at least ten fuel cell buses or trucks were filled up at it regularly.
Written by Joachim Berner