Issue: Aug 2013


AI asked Fabio Ferrari, CEO of Symbio FCell whether the hydrogen solution is more than zero emission



by Jon Knox

AI asked Fabio Ferrari, CEO of Symbio FCell whether the hydrogen solution is more than “zero emissions”.

Ferrari: When considering the perceived value from end users, the driving pleasure is clearly augmented. Quietness, torque perfor¬mance, ease of use, acceleration and road holding, pure air… these are all clear benefits to end users. Fuel cell vehicles are nothing but electric vehicles with much longer range than batteries, and with fast refueling. In other words, all the benefits of electrification com¬pared to petrol engines, without the drawbacks of bat¬teries. As far as professional users are concerned - notably for last mile urban delivery - the FCEV solution is compliant with professional cycle usages, while allowing access to city centers at night because it’s silent, as well as to zones forbidden to polluting vehicles.

AI: What is the operational impact on the end user?

Ferrari: FCEVs can be refueled in four to five minutes, just like your legacy petrol-based car. But there is the chicken and egg question – vehicles and refueling stations. We believe starting with private fleets and extending to public infrastructure is the right approach. It de-risks investments. The good thing with this hydrogen story is: no operational impact on the end user.

AI: How do you manage the total cost of ownership?

Ferrari: It is no secret that, with mass production, there is no difference in TCO between various power trains. But, as we have clearly seen in some specific conditions - especially the last mile delivery - FCEV vehicles can be competitive with diesel-based solutions, at a production rate of less than 10 000 fuel cell kits a year. The real consumption of a utility delivery van down-town, is 11 liters per 100 km, with a vehicle that is normally given five liters NDEC. This changes the whole paradigm. As far as consumer vehicles are concerned, we need mass production to see ICE and FCEV TCOs converging. H2 Mobility initiatives in Germany, UK, Denmark, Switzerland and now France aim at solving the chicken and egg issue.

AI: What about the long-term availability of hydrogen?

Ferrari: The real question is rather: how do you want this hydrogen produced? How do you make it CO2-free as much as possible? Of course, the real benefit for everyone is to get rid of hydrocarbon sources such as gas, and produce CO2- free hydrogen from water electrolysis using renewable energy or bio-gas. This way, you also contribute to make renewable profitable, because you store intermittent energy by changing the energy vector (from electricity to hydrogen)… and you value the energy against fossil fuels, not against electric kilowatts. By-product hydrogen is also massively available. Ultimately, we will produce hydrogen from garbage water with specialized batteries (3G bioprocess), with no tier energy but solely with solar energy.

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