BMW and Toyota: the rise of the electric car to bet heavily on the hydrogen car

It seems clear that all manufacturers are already committed to an electrified future, in the sense of a battery- powered electric car. Some have started soon and others join the party somewhat later. At the same time, interest in hydrogen seems to have disappeared. Volkswagen, for example, which neglects hydrogen for fear of being the new Nokia.

However, some manufacturers continue to believe in hydrogen-associated technology in hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. And they are not exactly small manufacturers. BMW, Toyota and Hyundai strongly believe that in the future there will be room for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. And the world market is not uniform and the needs of consumers are not the same in all parts of the world.

In Europe, only 47 cruises emit more sulfur oxides than 260 million cars, according to Transport & Environment The European Commission is one step away from denouncing Spain for violating pollution limits.
In Europe, only 47 cruises emit more sulfur oxides than 260 million cars, according to Transport & Environment

For Klaus Froehlich , who heads BMW’s R&D department, the electric car could account for up to 30% of global car sales in 2030. Most would be done mainly in the big cities of eastern China, on the coast western United States (and some city on the east coast). In Europe, the picture would be different. At BMW, they believe that 25% of sales in 2030 will be from plug-in hybrids, while gasoline and diesel cars will still cover more than 50% of sales , the rest being battery-powered.

And it is that the infrastructure necessary for an electric car to be totally viable will not be complete in Europe in 2030. And we are not talking about electrolineras or networks of private superchargers, but that in old Europe, the vast majority of cars sleep in the street and do not have an assigned parking space where you can plug the car .

The next generation of BMW X7 could have a fuel cell variant

Thinking about that data, BMW believes that the development of fuel cell technology or fuel cell could be the ideal solution for cars to the 2025 horizon. BMW is currently working with Toyota in the development of the next generation of cars with battery fuel that would reach the next generation of the BMW X6 and BMW X7, in eight or ten years.

Although it is true that where they see him further is in the transport of goods by road. The limits of CO emissions imposed on trucks is such that, the only viable path is electrification.

However, 6 or 7 tons cannot be added to a truck and therefore subtracting that weight from the load. “It makes no sense,” says the BMW executive. “With a single charging station, you can recharge a fleet of 100 light trucks in one night. (…) And with a network of 200 electrolineras on highways, thousands of trucks could be supplied throughout Europe, which means that from the point of view of infrastructure it is viable ”, explains Froehlich.

Fuel cell

Of course, today, the main obstacle of fuel cell cars is precisely the infrastructure, rather than the price of the car. That a Hyundai Nexo costs almost 70,000 euros is not so much what slows its sales as the clamorous absence of hydrogeneras. The price of the Nexus – which probably is not profitable – is a reflection of the technology it equips and especially of the few units that expect to sell the car.

Although the hydrogen recharge infrastructure is still almost non-existent (in Spain there are only six hydrogeneras , for example), it is not something that is fixed like this forever. Charging points for electric cars were also a rare avis 10 years ago. And today, although they do not cover the territory with the same density as the gas stations, they do cover the great axes of the country.

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The emission standards of 2030 cannot be met only with electric cars

The average of CO emissions in 2021 in Europe will have to be 95 g / km, but it is expected that in 2030 it will have to be 60 g / km . And groups like Toyota consider that having only the electric car to be able to lower the level of average CO emissions so drastically will not be possible if we only have the electric battery car to achieve it.

With a European market dominated by more than 50% by diesel and gasoline in 2030, according to BMW data (data that Toyota, as BMW’s hydrogen technology partner, considers valid) cannot be achieved solely with the production of Electric battery cars and plug-in hybrids. In that context, cars with fuel cells would be the way to reach those figures. As long as the necessary refueling infrastructure comes true, obviously.

Currently, there is another problem related to hydrogen that would not match emission reductions. And today, almost all the hydrogen produced and consumed by fossil fuels . But it does not have to be like that.

Forecast of the cost in dollars (USA) of the kg of hydrogen generated by photovoltaic and wind power plants depending on their geographical location.
While less than 0.1% of global hydrogen production today comes from water electrolysis (with decreasing costs for renewable electricity, particularly photovoltaic and wind solar energy), there is a growing interest in electrolytic hydrogen, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) .

And according to IEA data, to produce hydrogen using electrical energy obtained from photovoltaic panels and wind power plants at sea, the cost per kg of hydrogen could be less than $ 2.5 in most countries. The more days of sun and / or wind a geographical area has, the cheaper it would be to produce hydrogen there, reaching less than $ 1.6 per kg of hydrogen in northern Chile and Argentina, for example.
There is nothing written and everything can happen and the fuel cell car could end up being a commercial reality more than tangible. It could even be a golden opportunity for our industry.