The view recently expressed by Ernst Piech that ‘hydrogen is the future’ has been echoed by more than three quarters of automotive industry executives who participated in KPMG’s Global Automotive Executive Survey 2017. Although respondents still see battery electric vehicles (BEV) as the top trend in 2017 and even through to 2025, a brighter future for fuel cell vehicles (FCV) is envisaged in the long term. Whereas the industry is forging ahead with a proliferation of new electric vehicle launches but also collaborating to develop a cohesive network of charging stations, the majority of executives surveyed believe that problems with establishing the charging infrastructure and the time it takes to recharge EVs mean that FCVs will ultimately prevail as the winning electric vehicle technology.
FCVs are currently sold in negligible numbers, the refueling network is far less developed than the recharging infrastructure for BEVs and concerns persist about the cooling and safe storage of hydrogen in gas form but the refueling time for FCVs is far quicker and according to the survey, ‘the reason for execs to believe in fuel cells may be their strong attachment to the existing infrastructure and traditional vehicle applications.’ Essentially, the belief is that hydrogen refueling pumps could easily be introduced to the existing network of fossil fuel refilling stations, although this isn’t currently the case, with the majority of hydrogen filling stations being standalone. There are also concerns surrounding the high costs of installing hydrogen fueling stations, especially as the costs for electricity charging stations are coming down, and delivering hydrogen safely.
However, the results of the KPMG survey will be well received by Toyota, which has FCVs firmly at the heart of their powertrain strategy, and the German government, which has announced plans to invest €250 million by 2019 to support fuel cell vehicle development.
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