Dr Ulrich Schmidtchen from the German Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (DWV) gives an overview of the current situation.
The new year has just begun, but we have already seen quite a number of changes concerning the car makers developing fuel cell cars. New partnerships have been announced, old ones were extended, and target dates communicated for a long time have been revised. DWV thinks it to be appropriate to give an overview of the current situation.
It would be premature to conclude that the start of the fuel cell car era has again been postponed for an unknown period simply because new alliances have been formed and old ones have been extended during the last weeks. These steps rather serve for giving a better economical basis in pursuit of the targets which remain the same.
New partnership: A cooperation between BMW and Toyota exists since 2011. Early 2013 it was extended to the field of fuel cells (fuel cell system, hybridised electric drive train, hydrogen storage) and aims at entering the mass market around 2020.
Extended partnership: The old cooperation between Daimler and Ford in the fuel cell field was extended by Nissan-Renault as third partner. So there is also an important French car maker in the boat now. Nissan-Renault does no longer follow the pure battery path and thinks now that to bigger and heavier vehicles the fuel cell drive train is better suited. Daimler does no longer pursue the project of a small serial production in 2014 but will leapfrog this intermediate step. Instead they will directly enter the profitable mass production (six digits production numbers) beginning in 2017 with their two partners.
Asia moves ahead: This year Hyundai is building a small series of 1000 fuel cell electric ix35, and in 2015 the company will enter serial production at the same time as Toyota and Honda. No details are known at this time about exact production numbers.
So it remains the target that within this decade the repeatedly announced commercialisation of fuel cell cars will become real. All international car makers which were active in this field until now (Daimler, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Toyota) plus now also BMW are in the boat. The only unknown quantity is General Motors; it appears that they want to wait for further progress of the infrastructure (see below).
Important infrastructure initiatives in global key markets (Europe, Japan, Korea, USA) will complement the work of the car makers and make sure that the vehicles can be used.
Last month the EU published a draft of a directive obliging the member countries already having hydrogen filling stations (approximately half of the EU countries) to establish a filling station infrastructure which provides a minimum supply until the end of 2020.
In Germany 50 funded stations in the framework of the CEP project will exist in 2015, plus some 50 more in the framework of H2Mobility. The target for 2020 is 400 stations. At least as far as the plans are concerned this is a solid foundation.
The United Kingdom aims at a start infrastructure comprising 65 filling stations. The target for 2030 are 1150 stations for 1.6 million vehicles.
Denmark plans 15 hydrogen filling stations for 2015 and 200 for 2025.
Comparable plans exist for France and Switzerland.
Until 2015 Japan will install some 100 hydrogen filling stations in four metropolitan regions. The car industry has taken the obligation to make a sufficient number of vehicles available.
In 2012 the governor of California published a „Zero Emissions Vehicle Action Plan“ which includes funding for 68 hydrogen filling stations between 2015 and 2017 as well as further extension of the network to 100 according to the market demands.
No detailed plans are known from China, but we can safely assume that they do exist for the foreseeable future. There is no doubt that important impulses for the whole world will come from there.
It is foreseeable that the infrastructure of hydrogen filling stations in the industrial key regions of the world will be on an acceptable level when the vehicles are introduced into the market in larger numbers. Public funding will then have achieved its objective. The further development can be left to the markets.
As a whole it can be said that the development progresses without delays. If Germany wants to retain its leading position in this field it is necessary for politics to provide the appropriate boundary conditions, for example in the current revision of the mobility and fuel strategy.