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.
Last year, the German Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association celebrated its 20th anniversary. The occasion prompted the editor of H2-international, Sven Geitmann, to use the editorial of last year’s November issue to paint a picture of the association’s progress over the past two decades. To complete this picture, the chair of the DWV, Werner Diwald, recently sat down with H2-international for a short interview about the current state of affairs and the association’s plans for the future.
There has been a steady rise in the number of power-to-gas plants in Germany. Systems at several dozen locations are now producing hydrogen based on eco-power. Despite some bureaucratic hurdles and technical complications that developers may face, planning and construction are typically uneventful processes. Not so in the German town of Grenzach-Wyhlen: There, the future neighbors of a planned power-to-gas system founded a citizens’ initiative to prevent it from being built.
Professor Josef Kallo has been working for years on realizing his dream: the use of zero-emission fuel cell aircraft in passenger transport. On Sept. 29, 2016, he came a huge step closer to his vision, when the first flight of a four-seat, propeller-driven and hydrogen-run airplane was completed successfully. During the World of Energy Solutions, Kallo talked about the flight, the technology used and presented “his” HY4 to all interested attendees.
On Dec. 14 and 15 last year, the German federal transportation ministry, BMVI, organized its NIP year-end conference “Clean Transportation by Hydrogen and Fuel Cell” to present the successes of the National Innovation Program Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology. Many project partners and politicians from across the country came to Berlin for the presentation of the results and to witness a fast and seamless transition into the next decade.
After one hydrogen filling station had each been installed in Wuppertal and Ulm in summer 2016, another three went into operation last fall. As reported previously (see Three New Hydrogen Filling Stations), the H2 pump at the Metzingen gas station south of Stuttgart came online on Sept. 23. Five days later, however, it had to be shut down again when a truck hit it. Its trailer had been caught in the pump, resulting in at least EUR 60,000 in damage.
During the NIP year-end conference by the German federal transportation ministry BMVI last Dec. 14 in Berlin, attendees seemed to be listening to a unique “success story”: EUR 700 million in incentives, almost 700 projects and around 500 industry partners for R&D and market preparation from 2006 through 2016. The program’s successes were presented by Germany’s transport minister, Alexander Dobrindt, and several managers of central NIP projects during two half days
Plug Power CEO Andy Marsh is looking to establish framework agreements with Chinese companies, as he believes the country to be a very promising market. China is said to have already invested more than USD 100 billion in fuel cell technology over the years, as it has recognized that there is large potential to tap (see Ballard). Talks with Chinese-based automotive suppliers are ongoing. In the US, Plug Power hopes that there will be other tax incentives for fuel cell vehicles. The investment tax credits have certainly been a factor in getting orders for forklift truck retrofits. Donald Trump, however, is said to be opposed to these types of incentives as much as in the wind and solar industry.
A new megatrend needs time to develop. The last 15 years established the foundation for the coming breakthrough of fuel cells and a steadily growing interest in their use. Here’s why: Historically, technological revolutions often needed 15 years before a breakthrough was achieved. But once you’re past that point, everything goes very quickly, since no market actor wants to remain on the sidelines. This is exactly what’s happening to the fuel cell across all markets and applications.
The persuasiveness of Tesla head Elon Musk resulted in more than 90 percent of Tesla and SolarCity shareholders following his recommendation and approving the takeover of the latter. Now, Tesla will expand its electric car portfolio by offering solar roofs. The impact of the merger on Tesla’s financials will show as early as the fourth quarter of 2016, when SolarCity’s results are added to the corporation’s balance sheet. The most important factor is the around USD 3 billion in debt.