Like other industries, the energy sector has seen events being postponed or cancelled, making it difficult if not impossible to unveil new products, attend discussion panels and meet new people. But the partial lockdown has also opened up some new opportunities. Thanks to greater digitalization, online product presentations can still reach a global audience, face-to-face meetings are being replaced with webinars and video conferences, and phone calls have become an even more important means to stay in touch. Additionally, fewer commutes and business trips leave more time for other things and help reduce environmentally harmful emissions.
Who can make the most of hydrogen and fuel cells? This question seems to have sparked a fierce competition between several German government ministries since late 2019 as they are vying with each other for control over the debate. Their tug-of-war began spreading through the political landscape when hydrogen became an issue to campaign on early this year, prior to the Hamburg state elections. Although the Christian Democrats were the ones who actively promoted the technology for a while, public opinion seems to have shifted in favor of what the Social Democrats are planning to do with it.
Early this year, Silke Frank, the longtime face of the f-cell trade show, left event organizer Peter Sauber Agentur Messen und Kongresse and went on to found Mission Hydrogen in nearby Winnenden on March 1. She had been with Peter Sauber Agentur since 2003 and worked her way up the ladder to become owner and founder Peter Sauber’s right-hand woman who oversaw day-to-day operations at the company. In that time, she had, for many years, a decisive influence on how the f-cell show held in Stuttgart was run.
Are batteries or fuel cells the more environmentally friendly, technically superior and economically prudent solution for electric transportation? Short answer: It depends.
On March 19, German heating manufacturer Viessmann, based in Allendorf, announced it would shut down Hexis, its subsidiary in charge of developing SOFCs. The headline of the press release sounded rather innocuous: “Viessmann takes new path to implementing future-proof technology.“ However, in the third paragraph, the company then said it “will discontinue operations at Hexis.“
Since January, Jan Petersen has been in charge of developing forward-looking transportation solutions at Total in Germany. He is heading a new division that aims to install not only ultrafast chargers but also hydrogen and natural gas stations. Bruno Daude-Lagrave, the chief executive of Total Deutschland, said the company created the department to respond quickly to market changes and make an active contribution to emissions reduction. He added that the main goal of Total is to be able to provide the energy needed for future generations of vehicles, a goal that can only be achieved by using a combination of different technologies.
Mostly out of the public eye, Berlin-based inhouse engineering has been working for years behind the scenes on a fuel cell system that does not quite fit in with other suppliers‘ product offerings. With 5 kW capacity, it is much more powerful than devices offered by, for example, IBZ partners (see list on p. 13). Likewise, it is used mainly to supply energy for commercial multi-family and business properties, not single- or two-family homes.
The Metal Hydride Center of Excellence at Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials – IFAM is developing composites that offer considerable advantages over conventional powder- or granule-based metal hydride storage.
The Automotive Business Barometer has found that a clear majority of executives working in the auto industry wish automakers and politicians in Germany would support more of the technologies deployed in electric vehicles. Over 80 percent of those who took part in the survey criticized the current focus of politics and industry on all-electric transportation.
Europe is leading the way in developing the breakthrough technologies needed to realise hydrogen’s energy potential. With hydrogen-powered buses and taxis being used across major cities, we have demonstrated that the technology can be used on a large scale.