Recently Andreas Scheuer had a little skirmish with VW boss Herbert Diess. On Twitter, Diess, an avowed follower of electromobility, had said the hydrogen car was over – the climate couldn’t be saved that way. On which the Minister of Transport again invoked openness to technology. “I think it is wrong to focus on just one drive technology,” replied Scheuer, the CSU man. All new technologies should be researched. And many transport ministers before him saw it the same way: So far, hundreds of millions of subsidies have been spent on fuel cell cars.
Obviously, that didn’t do much, at least that’s what the federal government’s response to a small request from the Greens suggests. It is available for the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Of the funds from two major innovation programs that the federal government had devoted to the breakthrough of the fuel cell, a third went to hydrogen cars, for a total of 212 million euros. But at the end of June, only 1,261 cars are licensed and are supplied with hydrogen at a good 90 service stations – also subsidized. German manufacturers and suppliers were also widely supported, according to figures with 187 million euros. But Asian manufacturers have won the race so far: 80% of the 1,261 registered vehicles come from Hyundai, Toyota or Honda.
The fuel cell has had its ups and downs in the planning of German manufacturers for years, Mercedes has long pursued major hydrogen projects. But the GLC Fuel Cell hydrogen SUV remained a small series. The Stuttgart-based group is now focusing on fuel cells for heavy traffic. Only BMW is betting on the cell for cars with the i Hydrogen Next; a small series is to be built from next year – to test the technology.
“It’s too esoteric for me”, says Green Cem Özdemir
The fuel cell converts hydrogen into electricity, which in turn drives an electric motor. In this way, emissions occur as much as possible during the production of hydrogen. However, it takes time. It is true that hydrogen can also be obtained from wind power by electrolysis. But energy is converted twice – first from electricity to hydrogen, then from hydrogen to electricity. The batteries in electric cars do this more efficiently. The hydrogen tanks promise more autonomy, but the battery is catching up. “On the path to emission-free cars, the market has decided in favor of the battery,” explains Green Cem Özdemir, who also heads the Bundestag’s transport committee. People like Andreas Scheuer should dream of a hydrogen car. “But it’s too esoteric for me,” says zdemir.
The Ministry of Transport, on the other hand, refers to the many other opportunities that hydrogen offers – for example in the eco-driving of trucks, ships or even airplanes. Testing every possible application of the fuel cell couldn’t be a mistake. For the car, on the other hand, the response to the Petite Enquête does not emanate any euphoria: technical feasibility is not the challenge, she said. But “the decision of a costly upscaling of production”.