Call it synchronicity or call it conspiracy: 2015 is drawing closer, the year when several large global automakers will begin full-scale launches of hydrogen-powered automobiles. Developing new powertrains being costly with unassured payback, automakers form alliances to share the cost. And alliance of Daimler, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota to jointly promote hydrogen use would be surprising, they usually are otherwise engaged. However, the four join hands, forces and cars for a grand hydrogen tour through Europe. Read More >
The excitement about battery electric vehicles seems to die down amidst disappointing uptake. Range, weight and cost are in the way. At the same time, dormant interest in fuel cell vehicles is being rekindled. A month ago, we had a new look at the technology from the perspective of the Toyota/BMW linkup. Today, The Nikkei [sub] takes a broader view and says that carmakers are in the final lap of the fuel cell race. Let’s have a look at the contestants and where they stand.
The intensified alliance between Toyota and BMW shines a new light on a technology that has been discussed for decades, but that never quite made it: Hydrogen fuel cells. BMW will get access to Toyota’s fuel cell technologies. This most likely spells the end of the fuel cell cooperation between BMW and GM. Let’s take another look. Read More >
CARB has mandated that 15.4 percent of new vehicles sold in California by 2025 must be plug-in, electric or fuel cell powered. The new mandate was supported by major OEMs and could mean as many as 1.4 million zero-emissions vehicles (as well as plug-in cars) on California roads by 2025.
The car industry has high hopes for the young. Automakers have invested and are investing billions into hybrid and electric vehicle, so far with lackluster success. In the U.S., the take rate of hybrid cars is actually coming down from a 2.78 percent peaklet in 2009. The 0.14 percent market share of EVs is too small to move the plotter’s needle. To recoup the investment, new tech vehicles have to be sold in more meaningful numbers. It is the generation Y that is supposed to set the needle in motion. A study of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu promises that Generation Y will make a humongous difference.
Generation Y could be the “generation that leads us away from traditional gasoline-powered vehicles,” Craig Giffi, who is in charge of Deloitte’s annual survey of Gen Y auto consumers, told the L.A. Times. The paper summarizes: Read More >
At the Tokyo Motor Show, the announcement that Toyota and BMW are in cahoots over batteries, diesel engines and possibly more was the talk of the show. Back in Bavaria, BMW displays a promiscuous bent. BMW will cooperate with GM, yes GM, on fuel cells. This at least if the German magazine Wirtschaftswoche is correctly informed.
Sources told Wirtschaftswoche that a cooperation between BMW and GM is as good as done. Read More >
Think hybrid and electric cars are expensive? Wait until automakers start selling hydrogen fuel cell cars. Toyota tells Automotive News [sub] that it’s targeting global sales of a “few thousand” fuel cell vehicles by 2015. But because the technology will be rolled out due to emissions standards rather than widespread market demand, expect the price for the hydrogen Toyotas to be breathtakingly high. Says Toyota Europe’s Vice President for Product Planning & Marketing Alain Uyttenhoven
We could expect a fuel cell vehicle to retail at about 100,000 euros in Europe.
Phew! All of a sudden those EVs aren’t looking so overpriced, are they? Which might be why Uyttenhoven adds
We see pure battery-powered vehicles to be just a solution for small trips in the city, while a plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid is the best solution both for weekday urban commuting and weekend trips. Our research shows that more than 80 percent of urban daily trips are less than the 20km.
In an extended interview with Fareed Zakaria this weekend, GM CEO Dan Akerson repudiated a lot of GM’s previous optimism about hydrogen fuel cell cars, saying
We’re looking at hydrogen fuel cells, which have no carbon emissions, zero. They’re very expensive now, but we’ve, just in the last two years, reduced the price of that technology by $100,000. The car is still too expensive and probably won’t be practical until the 2020-plus period, I don’t know. And then there’s the issue of infrastructure
The DetN points out that GM had previously said that it would have anywhere from 1,000 to “hundreds of thousands” of fuel cell cars on the road by 2010, and most recently said (in 2009) that the technology would be “commercialized” by 2015 and “cost-competitive” by 2020. So, if hydrogen is moving to the back burner, what’s moving up? Akerson revealed that
soon we’ll be introducing “bi-fuel” engines which can burn both compressed natural gas and liquid gasoline.
We’ve seen GM take early steps towards bringing a natural gas-powered car to the road, but this is the first sign from a top executive that a dual-fuel car is a certainty in GM’s near future. By talking down hugely expensive hydrogen cars and talking up cheap natural gas powerplants, Akerson sends a strong message that GM’s green car efforts are moving in a more pragmatic direction. Hit the jump for part two of the interview, in which Akerson talks gas tax and green cars.
Read More >
With Opel planning to pull itself into the black within the year, the brand’s thoughts are turning from survival to “luxuries” like a flagship model planned for around 20k units starting in the 2016-2017 timeframe. Codenamed “TOL” for “Top Of Line,” the sedan will be designed to highlight one of GM’s many alt-drivetrain technologies, but according to Automotive News [sub], nobody yet seems sure which. Opel labor rep and recent champion of the brand’s forthcoming products Klaus Franz explains:
Already with the our Ampera electric vehicle, we have shown what we are able to do and enjoy an advantage of two to three years compared to the competition
But with the TOL is planned for 2016, Opel may have to dig deep to jump out ahead of the market, which is why a fuel cell-powered electric drivetrain is being considered (also, after decades of FCV research, GM has to build a production model someday). And if the eventual product has a truly ahead-of-its-time drivetrain, and looks as good as last year’s Flextreme Concept (above), this flagship could be an exclamation point on Opel’s turnaround. Unfortunately, neither of these things are a given…
The ominous Hydrogen Year 2015 is popping up again. Last year, Byung Ki Ahn, general manager of Hyundai-Kia’s Fuel Cell Group said: “There are already agreements between car makers such as ourselves and legislators in Europe, North America and Japan to build up to the mass production of fuel cell cars by 2015.” Going through the many files produced in Brussels, you find that in Europe “car manufacturers are getting ready for the commercial production of hydrogen vehicles by 2015.” Read More >