Saturday, February 7, 2015

The engine of the future prospects of fuel cell technology – radio Germany

By Katharina Hamberger

A man holds on 18/04/2012 the tap of a hydrogen tank column of a car on a gas station in Berlin. (AP / Hannibal Hanschke)
The refueling of fuel cell cars will hardly take away your time. (Reuters / Hannibal Hanschke)

Hydrogen is the “fuel” for the fuel cell cars – compared to battery-powered electric cars are in Germany still a rarity. But government and industry want to carry hydrogen as a drive means for the market. In Hamburg it is now on a so-called innovation line -. Here only drive buses that have little or no emission

“Yeah, here’s the key, is’ ne Automatic, now for the first time key in and turn to the far right, exactly -. and release “

So far, everything is just like a normal car. Steering wheel, automatic lever brake. But can quickly make the differences noticeable:

“. Ah, you hear nothing”

“. No, you listen to not say anything”

The rest comes not because the SUV does not work. It is due to his drive

“Now you see the front of the display that as a green light: Ready, that is, the system is now you have here.”. Distance to empty 327 km. tank is about half full. ” “Route starts”

A rarity on the streets of Germany

The tank is fitted hydrogen – it is the fuel for the fuel cell power this car supplies. Fuel cell cars are among the most electric cars. However, they are in comparison to the battery-operated still a rarity on German roads.

The white SUV, which now starts to move silently, is one of the CEP, short for Clean Energy Partnership. How the car works, explains Claudia Fried, spokeswoman for the CEP. Behind the three letters hides a joint project between government and industry. The goal: to bring the hydrogen as a drive means for the market. Parent is the NOW – the National Organization for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology. A limited liability company, the sole shareholder is the Federal Republic, a joint program of industry, government and academia to advance hydrogen technology in all areas. One approach, which does not exist in the battery-powered electric cars. With a sign that even in Germany driven by hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative for diesel and gasoline is seen.

Less CO2 production

“The hydrogen and fuel cells in combination has the great advantage that we produce much less CO2. The perspective when we eventually produce hydrogen from renewable, we then obtain the CO2 emissions almost to zero, but even today, in the current state and state a clear reduction of CO2 emissions from the mobility will have. ” So Herbert Kohler, Head of E-Drive and Future Mobility at Daimler.

For him it is also an advantage that the cars do not differ much from those who already know his customers. Even refueling would only take a little longer. Something that but represents the view of the Federal Environment and Nature Conservation Germany also a problem of the hydrogen drive. Because you would people suggest …

“… the current form of individual mobility can go on just like now. So, we can still 2.5 tons of steel a huge SUV from Berlin to Barcelona drive without having to make us previously thought: If we succeed, we get by But, I can always unlimited refuel energy and that is what we as a bit of criticism about the whole story, because we really want that?. the cars are smaller and more economical. ” Jens Hilgenberg the team climate change for BUND.

In a car showroom a covered with grass car in sight. ( / Daniela Kurz) Green future for the car? ( / Daniela Kurz)

However, the argument can even comprehend hydrogen friends. Klaus Bonhoff is CEO of the National Organization for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology: “Battery vehicles for smaller vehicles, compact vehicles especially in urban areas, are the most efficient type of mobility, and if we take the electricity from renewable sources, we have also in the overall chain distinct advantages .. But batteries can not cover the full range of mobility precisely when we talk about higher ranges, if we think about faster charging, then just hydrogen and fuel cell cars are used “

Innovation line.: fuel cell

But the fuel cell works at all? Briefly energy is produced by hydrogen and oxygen react with each other can be controlled. The waste product of this chemical process is water vapor. The fact that this technology works, it can be seen in Hamburg:

“And how was the now so with driving Löpt dat it?”

“Tell it out, as was it? Unlike a normal bus? “

” Yes, no jerking, no jog, nice and quiet, pulls evenly. “

The bus driver is learning along with his colleagues, how to drive a bus. And also how to refuel it. That’s why they keep up with the bus under a, supported only by white columns, asymmetric roof in the port city: the gas station

“After placing the fueling nozzle, we start with only the refueling process, the then runs fully automatically.. . The gas station communicates via an infrared port with the vehicle. “

Then Joachim Will presses a green button is about to start. At the gas station is also a column for cars. Both for buses, as well as for cars only slightly different from a diesel or gasoline: a large box with a display and a long hose with a nozzle on it. Will looked at the Hamburg elevated railway, the local transport operators, all new vehicle technologies. As well as the hydrogen bus.

“There are special passengers waiting on the line now that just passes a fuel cell.”

He is traveling on the line 109. It is a so-called innovation line. Here there are only buses that have little or no emissions.

Zero-emission buses

“Our goal is, from 2020 to buy any more buses do not have emission. In order to succeed, we are now the ones that are already developed nowadays. This applies to hydrogen hybrid buses, which affects buses that are powered by batteries, which affects diesel hybrid buses as an intermediate stage and other technologies. ” Explains Hamburg’s Mayor Olaf Scholz from the SPD.

“If we continue to expand our subways and our suburban trains, then of course increases the proportion of the traffic, which has little emissions. And if we do it that the other large transport, namely, the buses, the future is emission-free, which also has a significant impact on the air quality in cities throughout Germany. “

In Hamburg it is already on the innovation line:. fuel cell (DaimlerChrysler AG) In Hamburg it is already on the innovation line: fuel cell. (DaimlerChrysler AG)

The project is publicly funded. Even the cars are expensive. Hamburg can and wants to afford it.

“Our goal is to provide a bit to act as it perhaps California is already doing for the auto industry, which is to say a big market, we have the technological leap now . And who wants to achieve from 2020 here that needs to offer a technology that allows us to economically operate buses without issue. We buy from because only such. “

The future of fuel cell cars

A project like in Hamburg can contribute to the advancement of alternative propulsion techniques to make economically. This may in turn impact on the automotive industry. So far, those have to wait a bit longer wishing to buy in Germany, a fuel cell car.

“I could not tell you how developed over the next few years, the number of fuel cell cars in truth on the road now.”

At the moment there are only a small number of such cars in Germany because it is just very little models had that one could buy at the time, says Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt of the CSU. Especially if it is to be of a German manufacturer, yet there is not a car that is produced in large series.

“We have, I believe in 1994 started with the investigation of fuel cell and hydrogen applications. Are Today on the stand that we -. as well as communicating -. That is making for 2017/18 the launch, we are developing at the moment the components, drivetrain that “said Kohler

The group already has a experimental daring and a B-class manufactured in a small series. Actually, the series production should start in 2014. The launch has been postponed. BMW also tried his hand at a model of the Hydrogen 7. This plan was rejected in 2009. A problem with the Munich-based automaker: The hydrogen was liquid in the tank. In this form, but it evaporates very quickly. When the car is not driving the tank empties – Today the cars are fueled with gaseous hydrogen. After the withdrawal of BMW lasted only a few German carmaker in hydrogen technology firm.

“The automotive industry has strongly emphasized hydrogen for a certain time, as a pivot has made.”

doubts about the safety of the fuel cell

A pivot towards battery-powered vehicles, says the Minister of Transport. He now looks again to change: There is currently a new discussion back to give hydrogen and fuel cell technology a boost. In the 1990s, was still doubted the safety of the fuel cell, such as at gas stations

Belmer. “This is actually just the only drawback is the hydrogen has the word from my personal point of view: If we take word in his mouth, then all have equal the Hindenburg disaster in mind. If we look at our times, with what materials we otherwise surrounded us all day, I think hydrogen still one of the most compatible materials, “says Frank Belmer, fuel cell expert at Shell.

An electrolyser in hydrogen hybrid power plant (AP / Bernd Settnik) With such electrolyzers hydrogen is obtained. (AP / Bernd Settnik)

He is also responsible for the efficient refueling system for hydrogen in the world at the Berlin Sachsendamm. Here is a ton of liquid hydrogen is kept around. In Belmers office at the gas station that resembles a construction trailer, there are various screens through which he can monitor the system. On the grounds there is another room that is intended only for the absolute emergency. In it are many gas cylinders.

“If you stored hydrogen underground, of course you have a special security management. This looks at us from so that we have five gas sensors and three infrared sensors in the underground area. Infrared therefore, because you can not see hydrogen flame. “

Beat the sensors alarm, a gas is introduced, which displaces oxygen and therefore averting the risk of explosion. The cars themselves are apparently not a problem, at least in terms of safety.

“We have come with the vehicles of the CEP in the meantime, more than two million kilometers. And there are also accidents have been produced, and there is nowhere leaked hydrogen or there was a fire or something, “says CEP spokeswoman Fried.

delay the hydrogen fuel cell technology in Germany

” The technology is today at a level that it provides fully-customizable uptake. A fuel cell car as it is to ride today, a normal car, “explains NOW Managing Bonhoff.

But there are reasons to breakthrough of the hydrogen cell technology in Germany delay, or make the battery powered car feed. Daimler-man Kohler called one of them: “That might have a little something to do with the ability to recharge the battery at home there, But then very, very long load times, so then for hours but still can.. be an argument. “

For the fuel cell cars in Germany there are no refueling infrastructure. This is the view of the industry and the NOW one of the reasons why is already driven more by hydrogen in other countries such as the USA, Japan or Korea. The fact that Germany was behind in the area of ​​development that will neither NOW yet Daimler let them stand. However, there are from Asia now the first midsize car that is mass produced. The Toyota Mirai was introduced only in 2014. The company had expected 400 cars per year. 1500 should now have been already ordered. There are other conditions for fuel cell technology in vehicles.

“Asia, but also in particular the United States are on the regulatory side a step further than that there are promises of policy, public infrastructure for hydrogen vehicles also actually support. ”

According to Klaus Bonhoff the costs are another factor in Germany.

“The cars are still too expensive. And so it is now just too important to be relatively quickly with vehicles in the market is to reduce by higher volumes, the cost also. “

National Innovation Program provides up to 2016 a ten-year plan

In Asia and in the United States, however, there are a buying incentive system. Who buys the new Toyota in Japan for example, gets a promotion of around 14,000 euros. Such promises do not want to make the German policy. Work Here politics and industry together closely in terms of the fuel cell technology. On the part of the Federal Government has developed a series NOW, whose CEO Klaus Bonhoff is. The company also coordinated the NIP, the National Innovation Programme for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology. A ten-year plan to 2016, financed with money from different pots.

“Overall, there is a volume for research and development projects of 1.4 billion euros available,” said Bonnhoff.

In detail this means that 500 million euros from the Department of Transportation, 200 million euros by the Federal Ministry of Economics and 700 million euros on the part of the industry. This total also includes the money is to push the gas station infrastructure. Later this year are 50 hydrogen fueling stations are available.

“The next step, the more run-of petrol should then continue to take place in a collaborative activity of public and private actors. Since we are not today so far here in Germany that we have a firm commitment, “complains Bonhoff.

This refers primarily to the policy. For the NIP expires in 2016. A continuation of the program as Bonhoff they like has not yet made firm. If you ask about the transport ministry, but to whom nothing seems to stand in the way

At least according to the words of Minister of Transport Dobrindt. “We are therefore in talks with industry Our National Innovation Programme for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology in continuation. to bring. Now it’s the one about building infrastructure and invest on the other hand in the development of this technology. “

One million electric vehicles by 2020

The industry already has more ambitious goals. A partnership between car manufacturers and fuel producers named H2 Mobility plans to set up 400 service stations until 2023. On the other side are the legal framework. One million electric vehicles by 2020, is the stated goal. Which cars including fall, is defined in the first part of the Electric Mobility Act

“We say very clearly. Everything there is to understand about us alternative drives in electric drives, is a pure electric drive, is a hybrid drive with plug-in Hybrid or fuel cells technology. This means that we encourage and support technology open any development in alternative propulsion want, “said the Minister of Transport.

His department has drafted the law with the Federal Ministry of Environment. Already in the first reading in parliament last fall, before the law was referred to the appropriate committees, however, was clear: It is not enough to parliamentarians. You want financial incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles. For example, on special depreciation or cheap loans. Something which is not surprising also seen in the industry so. In the development and research support is good, admits Herbert Kohler from Daimler model: “We would complement us to want programs that stimulate the market further.”

The new electric car from BMW. By 2020, there will be a million electric vehicles. (picture alliance / dpa / Gerry Penny) The new electric car from BMW , By 2020, there will be a million electric vehicles. (Picture alliance / dpa / Gerry Penny)

keep costs under control

As an example, he cites Japan, the monetary incentives are there for customers, when buying a fuel cell car, would you also like in Germany, said Kohler. From the perspective of industry, this is understandable. Because they invested at the moment a lot of money, with the knowledge that the profit will initially remain manageable

Kohler. “When new engine systems on the market, it is important to keep the costs reasonably under control Man. will earn this money. But that has to do with prevention of the next and the next generation. So so far this is with a view to the future of the technology that we will use in the mobility and can. The subject of economics is not there in the foreground. “

Of course, but it is also true that in view of the future is clear: fuels derived from petroleum will not be getting ever. But who has already nose in front, other technologies that may have a competitive advantage. Without this prospect, the industry would hardly take large sums of money in the hand. Where the hydrogen comes from: If the hydrogen prevail as drive fuel, a matter on which the actual environmental performance of the technology depends left? Because it does not exist as a pure substance in nature, so it must be produced or recovered. There are various ways: As a product of fossil fuels such as natural gas, it is referred to as a black hydrogen. The ideal would be a production from renewable sources. This means that is cleaved by electricity from wind or solar water into hydrogen and oxygen. Power to Gas called in the technical jargon and is usually seen primarily as a storage technology for the power sector. So, if too much power from wind and sun in the net work, it could be stored on hydrogen. Bonhoff sees this technology is a necessity to use renewable energy for fuel production. “So if we produce hydrogen from electricity from wind or photovoltaic and use this in the transport sector, which is a prerequisite for achieving the targets for the transport sector CO2 Redukution minus 80 percent by 2050, compliance with Bioquoten for example in the fuel sector . “

hesitation in hydrogen production

The BUND although it looks as useful to when the power comes in from renewable energy sources, Jens Hilgenberg, however, has nevertheless concerns: “We have the problem if we build a plant for the production of hydrogen, it must be expected that indeed Which is then run around the clock, no matter where the electricity comes And if we just too much coal.. – have or nuclear power in the network, then the hydrogen is also produced from coal or nuclear power “

Also, the high conversion losses are problematic in the production of hydrogen: A lot of energy escapes.. Another construction that must pick it up when the hydrogen and fuel cell technology actually not to sound like a lover’s theme. 2020, a target that have set industry and politics. Then the industry to move forward as possible without training wheels and pay off the production of such vehicles.


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