By on July 23, 2014

Mercedes Blue Efficiency

While Japanese and Korean automakers like Toyota and Hyundai are jumping into the hydrogen game, Daimler plans to begin its own journey in 2017.

Automotive News interviewed Daimler head of corporate research Herbert Kohler about his employer’s hydrogen plans. Kohler briefly reflected on how Daimler were questioned on focusing upon fuel-cell technology before everyone else, stating that if an automaker wasn’t now at least considering the game, it would have to ask itself “some uncomfortable questions.”

As for the timetable of releasing an FCV by 2017, he states that while Daimler had planned to do so by 2015 at the latest, its joint partnership with Nissan and Ford to develop the technology will give all three time to bring the tech’s high costs down amid increasing volumes by the time 2017 rolls around.

Finally, when asked how much Daimler would charge for their FCV — in light of the $68,000 price tag for the 2015 Toyota FCV — Kohler says his employer’s goal is to price its FCV on par with “the hybrid version of a comparable model.”

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6 Comments on “Daimler To Enter FCV Market In 2017...”

  • avatar

    what a waste of perfectly good R&D dollars.

  • avatar

    I will quickly admit that I possess no engineering knowledge whatsoever (my greatest engineering accomplishments generally include duct tape as a critical component), but I don’t understand why having a diesel option, a gasoline option, an electric option, and a hydrogen option are a waste of time and money. This might be a reach, but we have German food, Japanese food, Italian food all delivered from a diverse infrastructure – why can’t we have consumer transportation with a variety of fueling options?

    Would like to better understand why this engineering endeavor is flawed. Thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      As an engineer (but not a chemist or auto engineer), I’ll offer a few answers:

      1. The total energy efficiency for hydrogen is very poor. Hydrogen’s benefit is that it’s ‘clean’, but this is only at the tailpipe. Unlike electricity production, hydrogen must be distilled – with great difficulty – from other substances like oil or water, and this consumes an enormous amount of power because hydrogen doesn’t like to break its chemical bonds. EVs have been criticized for this same issue (total energy consumption and pollution), but even the dirtiest coal-fired electricity is cleaner than an internal combustion engine.

      2. Then – once bottled – hydrogen must be stored and delivered at high pressure from the producer to the vehicle. This is expensive and hazardous.

      3. The consumption of hydrogen in a vehicle requires it to pass through a fuel cell to be recombined with air (actually oxygen), which in turn charges a battery that drives an electric motor. All these energy conversions have inefficiencies associated with them.

      4. For example, the Honda Clarity FCV has been around for a while now. It gets 60 mpg, but its fuel costs $8/gallon. This works out to about 28 mpg in a normal car.

      5. Infrastructure: There are only about 10 hydrogen stations in the entire US – 9 of them in southern California – and they’re expensive to build. At least electricity is available everywhere.

      6. Cost: FCVs are going to be priced in the $70k range. Public subsidies will help (as they did with EVs), but cannot and should not sustain the industry forever.

      7. Politics: Inevitably, politics plays a role in the game. Subsidies, pollution mandates, infrastructure, safety, and industry standards all become intertwined.

      So who will be willing to drop $70k on a 28 mpg (equivalent) car they can’t drive out of southern California? The issues are manifold; it’s really more complex than simply choosing from a variety of foods at the buffet.

      Personally, I am steadfastly against the fuel cell initiatives by these manufacturers; it’s a fool’s errand in my opinion. I drive an EV, but even still I don’t imagine that an EV is the right choice for everyone.

      • 0 avatar

        As another engineer, I will add that all of SCE’s arguments are valid when expressly comparing plug-in battery electric vehicles to FCVs with on-board hydrogen tanks.

        I personally think that the fool’s errand is reliance upon on-board H2 storage in gaseous or liquified form. On-board reformation of hydrogen is a far more plausible scenario but has its own inefficiencies and attendant byproducts depending on the chemical source of hydrogen. Given also that fuel cells work better as steady-state electricity production ultimately FCVs also require being battery hybrids, which could also be a plug-in hybrid using the fuel cell as a range extender.

        In the paradigm of a PHEV with fuel cell range extender using on-board reformation, I believe that hydrogen fuel cell development is absolutely worth pursuing. I have yet to see enough information from any of these companies to determine if that is the avenue they are pursuing or if they may bumble into it after chasing billions after billions.

  • avatar

    Look at that tiny B-Class! It’s the same as a ForTwo!

  • avatar

    California requires an automaker to produce a small number of cars that produce no emissions. They also have allocated $46.6m for 28 refueling stations Bay Area, LA and along I5. Otherwise no interest.

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