Daimler scales back hydrogen fuel cell development

A Daimler Mercedes Benz concept fuel cell vehicle. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
A Daimler Mercedes Benz concept fuel cell vehicle. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

German automaker Daimler AG has this week announced plans to scale back its development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs).

At an automotive conference in Stuttgart, Germany, the company’s CEO reportedly said that fuel cell technology would no longer play a “central role” in the company’s future vehicles.

Daimler, which owns popular brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Smart, had previously announced plans for a number of new FCVs to be released in the coming years.

Nonetheless, while the company is continuing some development in this area, it concedes that FCVs no longer have a significant edge over other zero-emissions vehicles.

Previously FCVs were seen as promising due to the long ranges they could drive compared to battery electric vehicles, as well as their faster refueling times.

Now, however, electric vehicles have similar or better performance than FCVs in these areas, making them less attractive.

Moreover, due to their use of hydrogen as a fuel, FCVs would require the rollout of extensive infrastructure to transport this gas to refueling stations. Electric vehicles, on the other hand, can make use of pre-existing electricity grids for ‘refueling’.

“Battery costs are declining rapidly whereas hydrogen production remains very costly,” said Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche according to tech news site Smart2Zero.

Earlier this month, Mercedes-Benz also announced that it would be bringing forward a planned market offering of electric vehicles by three years.

The company now intends to release 10 new electric models on the market by 2022, as part of its acceleration of the development of this alternative technology.

A battery electric future

These moves, from one of Europe’s largest automakers, suggests that battery electric vehicles may have already won the battle to become the zero-emission automobile technology of the future.

Such news would no doubt come as a blow to companies like Toyota which had invested heavily in FCVs and hydrogen infrastructure, however, failed to see significant sales.

Conversely, other EV producers, such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk, would no doubt feel their skepticism towards FCVs has paid off.