Manufacturers come together to back a hydrogen automotive future

14 November 2017

Manufacturers come together to back a hydrogen automotive future

14 November 2017

The recent COP23 climate change conference, held in Bonn, has seen a number of industry leaders come out in support of hydrogen use in industry, transport and the energy sector.

Leading representatives of 18 multinational corporations, including BMW, Daimler, Audi, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai, presented the first international study on the opportunities of the hydrogen-based economy, which sees amazing prospects for this carbon-free form of energy. For manufacturers, this would aid their CO2 reduction targets, with stricter rules set to come into force after 2021.

‘Hydrogen is the key to a decarbonized future,’ said Toyota Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada at the presentation of the McKinsey study. ‘Toyota firmly believes in the future of hydrogen and we will be at the forefront of hydrogen technology,’ he affirmed.

‘With the help of hydrogen, a CO2-free future is possible,’ expressed Uchiyamada. ‘The fuel can be produced from simple, widely available raw materials and is available globally, making hydrogen an important building block for energy security. In addition, hydrogen can be transported and stored relatively easily.’

Toyota has invested in hydrogen for automotive use, launching its Mirai model on the Japanese market while also investing in infrastructure around the world alongside a number of governments. The company will now develop the vehicle further and expects the number of sales to rise significantly in the next few years. The manufacturer has built around 3,000 units but expects around 20,000 units a year by the 2020s.

Meanwhile, Woong Chul Yang, vice president and development chief of Hyundai, another firm investing in hydrogen technology, said: ‘Hydrogen is ready for the mass market and we invite all interested parties to join in this great task.’

Jochen Hermann, head of development of electric drives at Mercedes-Benz, commented on Daimler's drive vision: ‘Hydrogen is a pillar of our low-energy strategy.’

As early as the year 2030, a study by McKinsey expects a rise in the number of hydrogen-powered vehicles to make them a relevant technology, especially in California, Japan, Germany and South Korea. Then, every twelfth car sold could have a fuel cell.

However, investment in this future would have to start now, emphasised all speakers of the Hydrogen Council at the Bonn Climate Change Conference. ‘We need $25 billion (€28 billion) in annual investment and $280 billion (€312 billion) in various technologies by 2030,’ McKinsey consultant Bernd Heid suggested at the conference.

About 40% of this sum must be put into the production of hydrogen, a third of which is required for the storage of energy and about a quarter is needed for the production-ready development and ramping up the necessary manufacturing processes.

By ramping up production and manufacturing processes, there would be considerable economies of scale that would significantly reduce the cost of hydrogen-based applications, Heid said optimistically. ‘Already in the past ten years, the costs for the construction of fuel cells and for the construction of hydrogen filling stations have been halved.’

In October, Toyota predicted that it will be able to sell hydrogen-powered vehicles for the same prices as an equivalent hybrid by 2025. ‘In the early 2020s we will launch the next generation hydrogen fuel stack technology, and that will provide a substantial move forward,’ said Naomichi Hata, general manager of new business planning for Toyota at the Tokyo motor show.