With hydrogen in the future?

Los Angeles ( USA), November 24, 2014

Is this the start of a new era of motoring? That is the impression you could get at the Los Angeles Auto Show 2014. Toyota introduced the Mirai before his first hydrogen vehicle for mass, while Volkswagen and Audi to counter with fuel-cell studies of the A7, US Passat and Golf Variant. A short time later, Honda announced to bring in one and a half years, a hydrogen car in series. Hyundai ix35 in turn provides a corresponding already now. Is this technique that is before the breakthrough?

Volkswagen 's fuel

During the fair, we were able to VW Passat and Audi A7 HyMotions h-tron test drive. The Passat is the US edition of the mid-size car. And then its hydrogen-powered version also runs: Very quiet, but rather cozy. His drive train divides the car with the study Golf Variant HyMotions. This means that four vehicle-mounted floor hydrogen tank pressure of 700 bar, the contents of which are sufficient for about 480 kilometers. The drive power is equivalent to 100 kW 136 hp. In the case of the Gulf is still a small lithium-ion battery and energy recovery and as a booster for maximum acceleration it. Which takes place in ten seconds to 100 km / h and the peak is at 160 stuff. Structural basis of clean Golf is the modular transverse matrix ( MQB ). The E - drive VW has the e - Golf loan, the battery of the Jetta Hybrid. The technology is currently being evaluated in the streets of California.

patiently Waiting

And that is likely to remain so for some time: the technology you have in control, will betray me. But once the competition and market development are observed. On good German: What is Toyota can sell to Mirai models? Those who buy hydrogen cars? Individuals and fleet customers? And above all, how to develop the network of filling stations and renewable, but energy-intensive production of hydrogen? Last but not least are the ghosts still on price. However, the advantages of the technology can not be dismissed out of hand: It is electric, but has a much greater range and not have to wait hours at the outlet. Of course revamp the low CO2 emissions of hydrogen vehicles on the ecological balance of the manufacturers. The type and amount of current that it is for the production of sprits, plays at least for the fleet consumption not matter.

Waiting for the hydrogen - Audi

But as nice as this sounds, so the developers are skeptical of Audi. Is a realistic market by 2025 around. Somehow reminds of the view of the German auto industry on the Toyota Prius, which was taken long ridiculed and late seriously. This affects the Audi A7 h-tron, I would like to draw in Los Angeles around the block quite close to production. In contrast to the VW concept here drive two electric motors on all four wheels. In addition to the fuel cell, the electric motor can be charged via the rear connector. This is to ensure 50-kilometer range. In the hydrogen mode there are more than 500 km, one kg H2 is sufficient for 100 kilometers.

noble contents

Overall, it brings the clean A7 to 170 kilowatts according to 231 hp, which makes for a sporty progress: 7.9 seconds to 100 according to Audi. The fuel cell is mounted in the front, a cold start is planned to minus 28 degrees Celsius possible. As in the exhaust system, water vapor is produced, it is made of lightweight plastic. But Audi also admits that around 80 degrees hot fuel cell is more demanding than a comparable combustion engine. In return, the efficiency with up to 60 percent is significantly higher. The cell itself is comprised of more than 300 smaller cells, which together form a stack ( "Stack "). The core of each single cell is a membrane made of a polymer plastic. Located on both sides of the membrane, a platinum-based (and therefore expensive) catalyst. The principle: hydrogen and oxygen react to form water vapor, at the same time power is released.

A clear statement from Japan

As in 1997, the Prius hybrid Toyota is now with the Mirai competition with a fait accompli. Starting at 15 December 2014, the 1,850 kg and 4.89 meters long hydrogen car to be sold in Japan. His other key figures: 113 kilowatt equal 154 horsepower, 9.6 seconds to 100 km / h top 178 and about 480 km range. But a price of 78,540 euros, which is but probably subsidized internally by Toyota. In Europe, the first vehicles will be leased from September 2015. So it makes Hyundai for some time with the hydrogen-powered version of the ix35, the complete price is laminated sent in this way.

Completely safe?

So many people think when it comes to hydrogen to the flammability and the images of the burning airship "Hindenburg". But Toyota is trying to calm the carbon-fiber composed of three layers of plastic tanks store hydrogen at a pressure of 700 bar. Nevertheless, should escape something sensors send a warning to the cockpit and automatically turn off the hydrogen flow. In any case, all pipes and tanks would be outside the cab, so that any fuel leaking volatilized directly.

Honda sets after

Honda is also diligent in terms of hydrogen: In 2007, the FCX Clarity was built in small-series to be leased in the United States and Japan. Until the end of March 2016, a "real" production model of a fuel cell cars in Japan come on the market, and later in other parts of the world. Despite a reduced stack power density to have been increased and amounted to the performance of more than 100 kilowatts. The car previously shown as a study called FCV Concept is designed to provide a range of 700 kilometers. According to Honda as a world premiere to find a place completely in the classic engine compartment of the entire drive train including the fuel cell.

Mercedes and BMW wait

Where are the other manufacturers? Mercedes had been announced in 2011 first production vehicles in 2014. Now it plans according to Herbert Kohler, Head of Daimler Group Research, "bring on 2017 competitive fuel cell vehicles in the market. " To do research in an alliance with Nissan and Ford. After promising studies in the 2000s BMW was first on the " Project i ", the models emerged from the i3 and i8. But now it is working with Toyota on "Project h", but it was only in 2021 the first BMW to go with fuel cells in series. Again, the high material costs for platinum and Co. a shortcoming.

Why not wankeln?

An unexpected comeback the hydrogen idea could help the Wankel engine. Goods whose elongated combustion chambers in conventional mode of disadvantage, as they are now using the good combustion of oxygen. The Mazda RX-8 Hydrogen RE has been running for several years in Japan and Norway in test mode. Its efficiency is low compared to a fuel cell, but no need for expensive materials and it is also a possible run on petrol. However, the H2 - range was previously with 100 kilometers quite mau, because in the RX-8 sports car fit not too large hydrogen tanks.

The hen and the egg

Gas is the right keyword for the main problem of the fuel cell: car manufacturers, oil companies and gas producers push one another to pass the buck to: No matching cars = no gas stations respectively: no matching stations = no cars. Currently, there are 30 hydrogen filling stations in Germany, of which 15 are public. By the end of 2015 added 13 new locations. Then, Daimler, Linde and Total, OMV, Avia and Hoyer have recently agreed. And it's about time: For the year 2018 is expected to be well over ten thousand fuel cell vehicles on European roads, including buses. Therefore, there is a plan of action in order to reach any place in Germany with hydrogen can. By 2023, the station network is expected to grow to around 400 stations. Cost: 350 million euros . (rh)