Thursday, 20 October 2011

Fuel cell cars edge into fast lane

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
17 Oct 2011, Page: 53

The Mercedes-Benz B-class F-cell is one of the first cars of its kind: a high performance, zero emissions vehicle that runs on hydrogen and oxygen fuel-cells. While the fuel-cells are currently very expensive, being constructed using expensive materials like platinum, European Union expert and Z GW board member Werner Tillmetz believes the advent of peak oil will be the turning point.

Speaking from southern Germany, Mr Tillmetz estimates that the world has used half of its oil reserves and has nearly reached the limit of how much oil can be produced per day, but the demand for cars grows exponentially. Mr Tillmetz, who was with Daimler for 15 years, says electric battery cars have a limited range, but foresees fuel-cells being used for longer trips and battery electric cars being used in cities. Christian Mohrdieck from Daimler says both options are being developed. It is worth noting that in Australia, an electric car would most likely use energy derived from a coal-fired power station.

Johannes Arnold from the DLR Institute of Technical thermodynamics believes that some kind of hybrid of the two systems is a likely outcome. General Motors, Toyota and Honda are focused on fuel-cells, while B MW and Volkswagen are moving towards battery electric. Mr Tillmetz says petrol stations would need to add a new product (in the form of battery exchanges or hydrogen pumps) as they did with diesel and liquefied petroleum gas.

Research by McKinsey & Co found that by 2030, consumers would pay a premium of between 7% and 20% for a clean energy car. Toyota, Honda, General Motors and Hyundai have talked of putting fuel-cell cars on the market in the next few years. Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche says his company will release such a vehicle in 2014.


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