Issue: Dec 2013

Daimler on fuel cells and e-vehicles

by Nick Palmen

Mercedes-Benz’s Current Electric Fleet - From city car to
van: the world’s most versatile electric fleet.

Air Liquide, Daimler, Linde, OMV, Shell and Total – have
set up upon a specific action plan for the construction
of a nationwide hydrogen refuelling network for fuel cell
powered electric vehicles in Germany.
Daimler’s fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles, coupled with fuel-saving technology, is growing. Models include the E-Class hybrid, for diesel and gasoline engine, the smart electric drive, and the S-Class plug-in hybrid. The company also has a B-Class with a fuel cell technology and B-Class Electric Drive battery vehicle, in addition to a portfolio of start/stop functions and the micro hybrids from smart.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Prof. Herbert Kohler, Vice President Group Research & Sustainability and Chief Environment officer of Daimler how important battery-electric and fuel-cell electric vehicles are to achieve CO2 reduction targets.

Kohler: Looking down the road to the 95g CO2, it is very interesting to see what will come next after 2020. In terms of zero emission mobility it is very important to be in the market not only with battery electric vehicles, but also with a fuel cell electric vehicle. I think this is one of the preconditions to be prepared for the market of tomorrow. We predict a very bright future for the fuel cell technology, especially for the United States as a whole and California in particular.

AI: What is your EV strategy?

Kohler: Our strategy is multi-layered. On the one hand we will have more and more plug-in hybrids on the road. Having already selected vehicles for the battery electric drive we, of course, are starting with the next generation of fuel cell electric vehicles after the B-Class model, which will be in the market starting 2017.

AI: What is the difference between Daimler EV’s and competitors?

Kohler: There is not that big difference any longer because competitors are more and more following the same track as us, especially with the fuel cell electric vehicle. They all found out that this is the right technology for the future. The race is getting closer and closer.

AI: What is the biggest problem in creating a successful infrastructure?

Kohler: This is the commitment of the third parties from the energy supply side. We are not seeing enough momentum from their side, and we are asking for bigger commitment. Having recently agreed on a concrete action plan the partners of the German cross-industry initiative “H2 Mobility” together have already made a major step forward regarding the infrastructure. But it will still take some time and will need strong engagement before a nationwide network is available.

AI: What is the potential of the current generation of fuel cell vehicles?

Kohler: The potential is having a driving range of 300-400 km, refuelling time of 2-3 minutes, and durability of 200,000 km. The technology will be much more flexible, as the major components will fit into the engine compartment of a conventional vehicle and we could also use them for applications such as in busses very effectively.

AI: How close are you to commercialization of fuel cell technology?

Kohler: Very close. We are preparing the next step of commercialization of the fuel cell starting 2017.

AI: How do you compare the cost between electric and fuel cell technology?

Kohler: From the development point of view maybe it is a little bit more expensive to have the fuel cell, but on the other side the advantages and the flexibility of the technology are the reasons that we are pushing in that direction. I think this a good investment for the future.

AI: What are the advantages of the B-Class electric vehicle?

Kohler: It is an e-application for the inner city of course, and that makes the use of the technology very attractive. We are preparing that at the moment especially for the US market in California. Volume wise this is a good prospect for us. The European market will follow some months later. We will see how that will work in the future, and what kind of volumes can be achieved with the B-Class.

AI: In terms of electrification what would be next step for Daimler?

Kohler: That will depend on what the market reaction is in total, and how successful which technology will be – this is difficult to predict. We are prepared on several sides with new ideas, but everything will depend on what will happen on the market

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