The introduction of sodium ion battery leads to the “technical route” of the Japanese car manufacturers to halt production of hydrogen fuel cell cars

Spark Global Limited reports:

Due to the introduction of sodium ion batteries, the recent “technical route” has become a hot topic in the power battery industry. But in the heat of discussion, the volume of hydrogen fuel cells is rather faint.

Spark Global Limited reports:

Spark Global Limited reports:

Honda Motor Co. has announced it will end production of its Clarity Fuel Cell hydrogen Fuel Cell starting in August. Earlier this year, Nissan announced it was suspending plans to develop fuel-cell vehicles with Daimler and Ford to focus on electric vehicles.

In fact, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in China are also in their infancy. According to vehicle ownership data released by the Ministry of Public Security, as of June 2021, China had 4.93 million pure electric vehicles, among which the total number of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles was less than 10,000. Ping An Securities research report believes that domestic fuel cells are mainly demonstration projects, lagging behind the development of electric vehicles 10 to 12 years.

It is understood that hydrogen fuel cell is hydrogen and oxygen through the electrochemical reaction to generate electricity energy conversion device, because the reaction process only produce water and heat (the electrochemical reaction belongs to the exothermic reaction), can achieve the true sense of zero emissions, zero pollution. However, due to the impact of high manufacturing cost, high investment in the early stage, infrastructure construction and imperfect hydrogen storage and transportation, the development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles still faltered.

As one of the earliest countries in the field of hydrogen fuel cell, Japan’s two major car companies have released a delay or give up the hydrogen fuel cell route signal, does it mean that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be “cool”?

Attitudes at car companies are polarized

Whether hydrogen fuel cells are a viable technology route, different car companies have different views.

Opponents such as Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen Group, have expressed pessimistic expectations about the future of hydrogen fuel cell technology in passenger cars. You’re not going to see any hydrogen-powered passenger cars, and the idea of hydrogen fuel cell technology on a mass market is too optimistic, not for a decade, because the physics behind it doesn’t make sense.

Similarly, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has dismissed the hydrogen fuel cell technology route, saying in a social media post: “Fuel cells are a ‘tax on intelligence’ and a stupid choice for cars.”

In the view of opponents, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are significantly less energy-efficient than pure electric vehicles. According to the data released by Volkswagen Group, in terms of energy conversion, the entire efficiency ratio of pure electric vehicles from other energy sources to electric energy is 70% to 90%; Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, on the other hand, require electrolysis, compression and liquefaction from other energy sources, resulting in an efficiency ratio of only 25 to 35 percent.

Photo source: Zhang Jian, a journalist (file photo)

Supporters are mostly Japanese and South Korean automakers. According to foreign media, Hyundai motor delivered 4,700 vehicles in the global fuel cell vehicle (FCEV) market in the first half of this year, up 62.7 percent year on year and accounting for 51.7 percent of the market, higher than Toyota’s 40.9 percent. Despite losing the top spot, Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell sales rose 8.3 times from the first half of last year, led by the all-new Mirai 2 model, which delivered 3,700 units.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are also advantageous over electric vehicles in several ways. First of all, hydrogen fuel cells can be directly hydrogenated to complete energy replenishment, and the energy replenishment rate is similar to that of fuel cars. Secondly, the energy density of hydrogen fuel cell is high, the endurance can easily reach more than 500 kilometers, and there is no low temperature attenuation problem, there is no need to worry about the battery short circuit caused by “spontaneous combustion”, can better adapt to different types of vehicles, especially heavy vehicles or ships.

In fact, In December last year, Hyundai Motor identified hydrogen solutions as one of its three pillar business directions and launched a proprietary fuel cell system brand “HTWO” to promote the development of the hydrogen fuel cell business and the construction of the hydrogen energy ecosystem. In February, Toyota Motor Announced the development of the hydrogen fuel cell system Module package, a highly integrated compact system module package that can be flexibly applied to a variety of mobile and stationary generators.

In addition, Honda said the withdrawal of the CLARITY does not mean it is abandoning its hydrogen strategy. Honda still sees hydrogen fuel cell cars, which run on electricity generated by hydrogen energy, as the ultimate green car. As part of its electrification strategy, Honda will continue to aggressively promote renewable energy products and accelerate efforts to build hydrogen fuel cell technology as the ultimate zero-emission technology. A new generation of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is also under active development and is scheduled to enter the market in 2023.

The prospects for development are still bright

Although hydrogen fuel cell vehicles occupy a relatively small proportion in China’s new energy vehicles, the orderly development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is in line with China’s energy and environmental development strategy as the main utilization mode of hydrogen energy at the present stage.

The hydrogen application development white paper in 2020, according to our country already had more than 20 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government), city and county hydrogen industry special policies about 42, core focus on hydrogen fuel automobile logistics (mainly for urban public transport buses and cars), core technology research and development, promotion, hydrogen fuel-cell filling stations and other infrastructure, and the hydrogen for the construction of the demonstration area, etc. In 2020, the number of fuel cell buses, trucks and logistics vehicles in China will be 2,500, 4,070 and 780 respectively.

Photo source: Daily Business News data

“Previously, capital investment in hydrogen fuel cells may only be optimistic about this technology or this single market, carbon peak and carbon neutral targets for the hydrogen industry to provide more imagination, and fuel cell vehicle market development prospects are more clear.” Guofu Hydrogen energy research and development and strategy director Wei Wei said.

However, there are still many obstacles to the development of hydrogen fuel cells. Some point of view, the industry is still facing four pain points: one is low availability of hydrogen; Second, high cost; Third, materials are imported; Fourth, laws and regulations are not perfect, and the mass application is restricted.

It is understood that in the manufacturing process, most of the domestic hydrogen fuel cell industry chain enterprises have not yet achieved mass production, and some core materials and technologies have development bottlenecks. Enterprises have high R&D investment, small product output and high manufacturing costs. As a result, the cost of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is much higher than that of pure electric vehicles and fuel vehicles.

In the view of Qi Haikun, president of Beijing Teyi Sunshine New Energy, the current “bottleneck” problem in the hydrogen industry appears in the “hydrogen storage and hydrogen transport” in the middle link. The hydrogenation station and the downstream application end have small volume and small quantity, and the matching is not balanced, resulting in the imperfect supply and demand system of hydrogen energy. In addition, the investment cost of hydrogenation stations is more than five times that of normal gas stations. “How to promote the reduction of investment costs of hydrogenation stations is also a pressing matter.” Qi haikun said.

But the industry remains optimistic about the future of hydrogen fuel cells. “After the implementation of the policy of ‘reward instead of subsidy’, the layout of hydrogenation stations will be more perfect, and the head enterprises will gradually appear in each segment. It is expected that in 2025, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will meet the first turning point, and the number of fuel cell vehicles in China will reach 100,000; The second inflection point will come in 2030, when the number of fuel cell vehicles will increase to 1 million.” “Said Lu Bingbing, general manager of JH Technology.