VW CEO Suggests Fuel Cell Tech Isn't the Answer, No Duh

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
vw ceo suggests fuel cell tech isnt the answer no duh

Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess was bashing hydrogen-powered vehicles on Twitter this week in an attempt to convince those vying for Germany’s chancellorship not to embrace the technology. With Angela Merkel stating that she’ll not seek a fifth term, the country is open for new leadership and VW wouldn’t want them to take a liking to hydrogen power when it has placed all of its eggs into the electric vehicle basket.

“The hydrogen car has been proven NOT to be the climate solution,” Diess wrote on Twitter in German. “In transportation, electrification has prevailed. Sham debates are a waste of time. Please listen to the science!”

It’s uncommon to see any automotive executive take such a bold stance against any alternative energy solution, as many manufacturers spent the last decade hedging their bets by investing in both battery-electric cars and those utilizing hydrogen power. But the infrastructure for the latter is nowhere near ready to accommodate widespread adoption and the process of producing the fuel has not resulted in the kind of breakthrough that makes it seem as though it would offer true benefits.

Diess directed his comments at Armin Laschet (head of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union), Olaf Scholz (German Finance Minister), Annalena Baerbock (Green Party candidate), and Andreas Scheuer (German Transportation Minister). His words were accompanied by a report from Handelsblatt covering a study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research alleging that pursuing hydrogen vehicles at their present level of technology would probably do the environment more harm than good.

Frankly, the benefits of all alternative energy solutions tend to be overblown by the interested parties. But hydrogen fuel cell technologies seem to represent the largest gap between what is currently possible and what everyone was hoping to achieve. The big concern is the amount of energy it takes to produce and move hydrogen in meaningful volumes seems to result in a scenario where you’re expending more energy than you would have if you just skipped the whole ordeal in the first place.

Despite having waste issues of their own, electric vehicles seem a far more viable option with noted progress. Of course, automakers don’t want to be left in the dust should there be a miracle breakthrough in hydrogen production or governments begin incentivizing the fuel — so there are still a decent number of brands perpetuating their commitment to fuel cell technology.

Volkswagen is not among them and has been fairly critical of hydrogen power, though it frequently hinges on making statements about “trusting the science” rather than providing a detailed breakdown of why it probably won’t work. As things currently stand, electric vehicles are vastly more efficient in terms of total well-to-wheel energy consumption. That, and national energy grids serving as an existing foundation upon which to build charging networks, has made them the dominant form of alternative energy vehicles.

With your author constantly complaining about how EVs are less convenient than advertised, thanks largely to a lackluster (but growing) infrastructure, there’s no way swapping to hydrogen power makes any sense. Outside of Pacific Asia, coastal California, and a smattering of European hot spots, there is basically no fueling network to speak of. That effectively locks owners into driving exclusively within those regions or hauling around gas canisters sized to fit inside a space rocket. It also explains why Japanese and Korean brands have taken a keener interest in the fuel and tend to expend the most cash on developing FCEVs.

But electrification is currently being spurred by government around the world and, if Germany starts playing favorites with hydrogen, there’s a chance automakers ignoring it could be kicking themselves a few years down the road — however unlikely and energy inefficient that currently seems.

[Image: Literator/Shutterstock]

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  • Stuki Stuki on May 21, 2021

    "The hydrogen car has been proven NOT to be the climate solution" Devote enough of society's time and effort solely to robbing competent, literate, productive people; in order to transfer all wealth to connected utter abject retardos in FIRE and ambulance chaser rackets, and you've got a perfect retardtopia: All resources controlled by dimbulbs so completely devoid of even the basic ability to put a coherent thought together, that their standard for what passes for "proof", involves a "solution" to nothing but figments of dumb peoples imaginations, the "solution" of which has not yet even been attempted, yet has magically "proven" something..... Great "proof" there, monkey! Par for the course for a financialized Dystopia ran, as are all such insults to eonomic literacy, by and for rank idiots.

  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on May 25, 2021

    Take 500lbs out of every new car and you'd save vast amounts of emissions.

    • Mcs Mcs on May 25, 2021

      That's true. It's shocking to see how the weight of all types of cars has been increasing. I was shocked the see the Acura TLX go over 4,000 lbs. On the electric side of the industry, weight reduction is badly needed. Less weight means more range from smaller batteries. Smaller batteries for a given range increases miles/minute charging rates. Smaller batteries mean lower costs as well. The battery engineers will give us lighter batteries, but I'm afraid crash regs will continue to increase vehicle weights erasing any gains.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?
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