Heliocentris Energy Solutions, which filed for bankruptcy in late 2016, will be no more, although its expertise will live on. The manufacturing and the education division were sold to different companies, but many employees who worked in Berlin lost their job.
For many years, heating systems based on fuel cells had played a central role on the joint booth Hydrogen + Fuel Cells + Batteries at Hannover Messe. This time, however, the Fuel Cell Initiative, IBZ, was nowhere to be found, not because there was no interest in the technology, but because it has been made available on the market.
At the beginning of 2017, several businesses joined forces to advance the energy transformation and spread the vision of a hydrogen economy. On Jan. 18, 2017, during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the heads of thirteen globally operating businesses held a press conference to announce the launch of the Hydrogen Council. The council’s secretary general is Pierre-Etienne Franc, vice president of advanced business and technologies at Air Liquide and formerly board chair of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, and its chair is Benoît Potier, Chief Executive Officer of Air Liquide.
Although the aviation industry was the starting point for hydrogen developments, commercial applications in that industry have been few and far between. 1783 marked the launch of the first hydrogen-filled hot-air balloon; later, hydrogen-powered airships crossed the Atlantic. But since the Hindenburg disaster in Lakehurst in 1937, the most lightweight element of all has fallen out of favor in every field except for the space industry.
The Paris Motor Show seemingly went all-out electric: There hadn’t been so many electric vehicles at one single trade show for a long time. From Oct. 1 to 16, 2016, Opel showcased its Ampera-e (500-kilometer or close to 311-mile range; priced at EUR 39,000), the “currently hottest rod from Germany,” as car blogger Fabian Messner put it. Renault showed the Zoe with a large 41 kWh battery. And VW announced a battery storage unit for its e-Golf with an increased capacity.
Despite the fuel cell industry’s recent growth spurt, the market still looks like a pyramid. At the top, you will find the stack and system manufacturers which offer commercial products and have a clear understanding of the costs involved and the wishes customers may have. These businesses are either driven by policy, as in Japan, or the forces of a free market, like FuelCell Energy. But of the worldwide more than 200 stack and system providers, fewer than 30 have made it this far.
Scientific studies have shown that if we want to succeed in transforming the energy market, our priority needs to be long-term storage solutions and an integration of relevant sectors. One technology with much promise for the future is Windgas. But although P2G remains crucial to Germany’s success in meeting the COP21 targets agreed to in Paris, the federal government all but ignores it. The most recent example of the lack of awareness among policy-makers is the 2017 amendment to the EEG, Germany’s renewable energy law, from which gas produced by wind and solar is virtually absent.
The UPS industry was supposed to be the fourth pillar of the German National Innovation Program Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NIP). Instead, the niche market considered to be an innovative force in the industry has yet to offer more than a glimpse into its possibilities. Industry network Clean Power Net (CPN) has tried to instill confidence by posting encouraging news articles
From June 13 to 16, the World Hydrogen Energy Conference (WHEC 2016) took place in Spanish Zaragoza. It was the twenty-first time that hydrogen experts from all around the globe met to discuss the potential of H2 and fuel cell technology as well as power-to-gas. In the words of Javier Brey, this year’s WHEC chair and head of the Spanish Hydrogen Association (AeH2), the conference was primarily about, “making people aware to the fact that others work on hydrogen strategies
In the future, high-temperature fuel cells should pave the way for new energy solutions in emerging countries. At least, this is the plan of several Indian investors who founded mPower in November 2015. Trusting in the SOFC know-how of Fraunhofer’s IKTS and the interconnects by Plansee, they want nothing less than to set out from Dresden and revolutionize the energy world.