At the recent German carmakers’ summit, discussions were tabled around the future of the automotive industry. The German government was also involved in the summit, contributing to the proceedings. It is actively encouraging national automotive firms to take up research and development of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and their associated infrastructure.
The immediate results of the summit were increased subsidiaries for battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Chief among the points of discussion for the future was the global debate between battery electric vehicles and fuel-cell powered cars.
Battery electric cars come with a set of monumental challenges that need at least the coming decade to address fully. A substantial charging network, resources needed for production, inherent hazards of carrying batteries in the cars – the obstacles are many.
Most global carmakers are already at various stages of progress in HFCV research. A unified commitment towards the technology is sure to boost the pace of development.
Honda and Toyota have been marketing fuel-cell vehicles since quite a few years, but neither of them has taken active measures to promote HFCVs as viable alternatives to IC-driven or electric cars. The German summit noted that currently there are roughly 600 hydrogen-powered cars in Germany. The summit participants’ short-term goal is to increase that number to 60,000 within three years’ time. In the rest of Europe and North-America, hydrogen-powered cars clock miniscule sales numbers.
With the German government now having committed to the future of hydrogen as a clean source of energy, things might start looking up. HFCVs are highly eco-friendly owing to the fact that their exhaust is largely distilled water and vapour. However, the first hurdle preventing them from going mainstream is the current inefficient hydrogen storage and logistical infrastructure. Hydrogen is very tough to transport, leaking from solid tanks due to its small molecular structure.
Furthermore, there will be 100 hydrogen refilling stations across Germany by the end of 2019, with 15 more planned in 2020. This number is not enough to sustain demand from the 60,000 vehicles the government is aiming to put on the streets. However, the important thing is that commitments are being made and steps are being taken to usher in a new era of hydrogen-powered cars that would co-exist with battery-electric vehicles.
Honda and Toyota have been championing HFCVs since quite a few years. The arrival of German hydrogen-powered will give an impetus to the technology's development.
One might say BEVs are a stop-gap solution until HFCVs become commercially viable and standardised across the world. A significant chunk of the global automotive industry is making the push to hydrogen as the future of fuel. That will surely have far-reaching effects across the automotive landscape.