The signs are quite clear: Large manufacturers of classic combustion engines are gradually abandoning their traditional fields of activity and investing in hydrogen technology.
The idea of using hydrogen as energy storage entered the political mainstream a long time ago. The coalition agreement between the Christian and the Social Democrats in Germany includes several direct references to hydrogen and fuel cells, while a few other parties have made the technologies part of their platforms as well.
In many communities, electric buses have been the latest innovation to grab the attention of passengers and mayors alike. While passengers are just thrilled about the quiet and smooth ride, mass transit companies are looking for businesses that can deliver these types of vehicles, especially fuel cell ones, as quickly as possible. However, few options are for sale, despite a boost in demand.
On January 17, in Berlin, the German Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, also known as DWV, and the German Association of the Gas and Water Industries, or DVGW, signed an agreement to step up their efforts to help set up a power-to-gas market. At the signing ceremony, which was attended by Thomas Bareiß, who has a leading role in the economy ministry, both organizations said they aimed to “gradually turn today’s fossil fuel economy into a climate-friendly energy system” by replacing natural with synthetic gas one step at a time.
In January, Eui-sun Chung, the executive vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Company, was named co-chair of the Hydrogen Council. He now heads the organization together with Benoît Potier, Air Liquide’s chief executive and chairman of the council since its founding in 2017. Both stressed the import of creating a zero-carbon hydrogen society.
The idea to use fuel cells as range extenders for electric cars is gaining in popularity. Now, Magna International presented its own approach during the 37th International Motor Symposium in Vienna, Austria, at the end of April. As a base component, the Austrian automotive supplier uses a medium-size van, which can go 90 kilometers (56 miles) on electricity alone. But when the battery charge drops below a certain threshold, the fuel cell is turned on to regenerate the power storage
An autonomous fuel cell system developed jointly by several research partners does a quiet job of converting diesel fuel into electrical energy – without the help of an engine or generator. When the project supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy reached its conclusion, the technical maturity of the system was demonstrated with success during stand-alone operation of the fuel cell stack and the power module.
Innovative projects are something of a tradition at Stuttgart Airport: Echterdingen is home to several fuel cell airplane models, Baden-Wurttemberg’s first public hydrogen filling station set up in 2009 and hybrid technology field tests since 1991. The most recent project involves field-testing six electrically powered buses for regular day-to-day use.
The fuel-cell companies quoted on the stock exchange have used 2015 perfectly to strengthen their market positions. These efforts have resulted in more orders, improved balance sheets, increased capital and some very important strategic collaborations as well trendsetting product developments. This lets us conclude for 2016 that probably most of these companies – if not all – will be able to become cash-flow positive or even generate sustainable profits after many years of preparing for this moment.
At first glance, the figures from some of the North American fuel cell companies by the end of March 2015 have proved to be disappointing. The reason that Ballard Power, Hydrogenics and Plug Power have come up with figures which failed to correspond to expectations are the high quarterly variations in relation to the accounting of orders which are complete as well as ones which are still being processed and settled. On the second glance