Volkswagen does not believe in hydrogen: “The physics behind it is irrational”


Future technology according to Toyota and Hyundai – disadvantageous according to others. Hydrogen being or not being in passenger cars divides the industry.

When Toyota launched its new generation of the hydrogen car Mirai earlier this year, the manufacturer said that it was a first real step on the way to making the technology more universal. This as an important leg for the hydrogen society of the future, where Toyota is investing heavily and, among other things, is now building its own prototype city.

Thiebalt Paquet, head of the manufacturer’s new hydrogen unit in Europe, told Ny Teknik last winter that the flexibility of the technology is a great advantage, and even though fine-tuning is still needed – it is starting to become competitive.

– Our long-term goal is to make fuel cell cars as competitive as our electric hybrids. For customers, it will be an economical alternative – especially in comparison with a battery-electric car, he said at the time.

VW and Stellantis reject fuel cells in passenger cars

But not everyone is as convinced of hydrogen and fuel cells as part of the future of cars. Financial Times reports on how several manufacturers would rather avoid the technology.

– We will not see hydrogen used in cars, not even within ten years. This is because the physics behind it all is irrational. You cannot scale fuel cells up and down in the same way as an internal combustion engine. So you need another 10 kW battery and an electric motor to run the fuel cell, says Herbert Diess, head of Volkswagen in a comment to the newspaper.

Read more: The Google founder’s zeppelin gets the largest fuel cell in the air

And the German company manager is not alone. Even the newly formed giant Stellantis looks askance at the technology and believes that it is more of a panic measure to invest in fuel cells. At least when it comes to passenger cars. Carlos Tavares, CEO of Stellantis Group, suggests to the Financial Times that those who advocate hydrogen-powered cars are the ones who have slipped behind when it comes to batteries and electric cars.

Renault: 30 percent hydrogen powered

That both VW and Stellantis, Europe’s two largest groups, which together have over 45 percent of sales, do not believe in technology at all is a strong signal. But there are those who are more positive.

French Renault is one of them, and the Financial Times writes that the manufacturer sees great opportunities for hydrogen operation when it comes to commercial vehicles. The French have set a goal of having 30 percent of the market for hydrogen-powered light transport vehicles.

Renault’s head of alternative fuels, Philippe Prevel, tells the newspaper that he sees that the transport vehicles that have to be driven more than 300 km will need to look at hydrogen. This is because the extra weight that the long charging time that batteries would entail is too great to be a sensible alternative for trucks.

This is an interesting contrast to VW, which owns both Scania and Man, whose boss does not even see the profit for trucks. Scania has also said that they are investing heavily in electric power – and that hydrogen will only be a narrow niche product for trucks.


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