While alchemists are still unsuccessfully searching for the Philosopher’s Stone, modern researchers believe they have found a counterpart to the preservation of an environment worth living in: Hydrogen. It remains when oxygen is separated from water by a current based electrolysis process. And it seems to be a real jack-of-all-trades because it can be used directly as an energy source, as a storage source for wind energy, for example, or converted into gas and synthetic fuel. If the electricity for the electrolysis process also comes exclusively from renewable energies, it is given the most valuable seal of approval and is henceforth called green hydrogen, because the entire production process is completely CO2-free.

Fuel Cells Are Very Popular

The English chemist and physicist Henry Cavendish certainly had no idea how relevant the hydrogen he discovered in 1766 will be one day. An impression of this was recently given by the US truck manufacturer Nikola, when they went public at the beginning of June without any turnover, but with great ambitions. Their goal: to replace Tesla. After a merger with VectoIQ, an expert company for the Future of Mobility, the value of Nikola’s share rose by over 60 percent. The start-up company, founded in 2015, plans to put hydrogen-powered commercial vehicles, Hydrogen Trucks, on the road in 2023 with its “Nikola Two” model. In its Ulm plant until end of 2021 Iveco plans to produce the battery operated“ Nikola Tre”, a model that is based on the IVECO S-WAY vehicle. Up to 35,000 trucks per year are to be built by the Ulm-based company Iveco.

Daimler Chooses Volvo to Follow Green Energy Paths

The development costs for hydrogen power units are currently still high. For this reason, Daimler has joined forces with Volvo, its strongest competitor in the truck sector, and plans to set up a joint venture with a share of 0.6 billion Euros each to accelerate the development of hydrogen trucks. The money will flow from Volvo. In return, Daimler will concentrate all its previous activities in the development of fuel cells on trucks and will combine them there. According to Daimler, the goal is “the series-ready development, production and marketing of fuel cell systems for use in heavy commercial vehicles” for long-distance traffic. Until then, Daimler wants to replace conventional Diesel emergency power generators in safety-relevant facilities such as computer centres by stationary power generation systems with CO2-neutral fuel cells. To this end, the Group plans to enter into an additional cooperation with Rolls-Royce Power Systems by the end of the year and to earn money with hydrogen in stationary use faster than it is possible by the fuel cell development for vehicles.

The Infrastructure Must Grow

The quick-change artist hydrogen can be transported and stored in both liquid and gaseous form. According to a report by the Energy and Climate Protection Foundation, fuel cell passenger cars “can be refueled with energy for a range of 500 to 700 kilometers in just three minutes”. A joint venture founded in 2015 by Air Liquide, Daimler, Linde, OMV, Shell and Total, which also includes BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Volkswagen as associated partners, ensures a well-developed network of filling stations in conurbations and on the motorways connecting them. The 100 hydrogen stations planned nationwide for 2020 are easy to find with a fuel card and smartphone app and are mostly integrated into conventional filling stations. This is what is needed to refuel hydrogen trucks.

In contrast, the MKS analysis (MKS -Teilstudie) by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure sees “critical development obstacles, research needs and market potential” in the infrastructural supply of trucks. Technical findings from the passenger car sector should not be overestimated due to the different requirements of trucks. According to the study, the low range is a possible obstacle to the use of fuel cells in trucks. For example, a 40-ton truck would only be able to cover 400 kilometers, whereas a conventionally refueled truck with the same weight and tank volume would be able to cover up to 2500 kilometers. The further expansion of the technology depends heavily on demand and costs.

Favourable Winds also Advance Hydrogen Trucks

As the Handelsblatt reports, the analysis of the US bank Morgan Stanley shows a promising trend. According to this analysis, the costs for wind and solar energy are falling rapidly and could lead to falling prices for the so-called Power-to-X technology (PtX) as well. In terms of the forms of energy, PtX means the storage and conversion of electricity, at best from renewable energies such as hydropower, wind energy and solar energy, into
the secondary products gas (PtG), liquid (PtL) or heat (PtH). PtL is used to produce e.g. E-Fuels, so-called synthetic fuels. According to the German Energy Agency (DENA), Germany currently leads the way in power-to-gas (PtG) technology. According to the Federal Government’s National Hydrogen Strategy, this should remain so in the future.

However, the majority of the demand for hydrogen could not be met exclusively by local production of green hydrogen, but had to be imported to a large extent. For this reason, Germany is planning international cooperation and partnerships. We at magility have been networking with important players in the hydrogen market from industrial partners to local authorities from an early stage. The aim is to network different players for the important topic of H2, to push forward projects together and to facilitate cooperation. If you would like to become part of our hydrogen network, please send an e-mail to our CMO nada.welker@magility.com. She will be happy to include give you more information.