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Fuel cell technology

In addition to battery-electric vehicles, hydrogen and fuel-cell technology is increasingly gaining ground as a drive variant with zero local emissions for the mobility of the future. The technology particularly lends itself for use in larger and heavier vehicles operating at extended ranges. The State Agency for New Mobility Solutions and Automotive, e-mobil BW, supports the advancement of this technology via the Cluster Fuel Cell BW.

Hydrogen and fuel cell technology play a key role in the decarbonisation of mobility. It is an indispensable supplement to the battery-electric drives of limited range. The technology is a promising alternative, particularly for long distances, large and heavy vehicles, trains, but also for ships and aircraft. Hydrogen and fuel cell technology will also play a major role in passenger-car segments where long ranges, fast refuelling and a high level of suitability for everyday use, as well as flexibility, are essential.

As State Agency for New Mobility Solutions and Automotive, e-mobil BW follows an unbiased approach, without preference for any specific technology, to promote the implementation of hydrogen and fuel cell technology in Germany. Baden-Württemberg, as a leading region of the automotive industry, has a particularly keen interest in the industrialisation of mobile fuel cell applications. The state is striving for pole position as a location for fuel-cell-based mobility. This is just one of the targets being pursued by the Cluster Fuel Cell BW.

The chemical reaction of hydrogen with oxygen from the ambient air inside the fuel cell generates electric power, along with some heat and pure water as process by-products. By utilising fuel cell technology, buses, trains and cars will be able to cover long distances with near-zero emissions, thereby facilitating a traffic system with almost no carbon footprint.

The technology has further benefits. Renewable power produced in excess of demand can be used to produce hydrogen. Hydrogen can be used to chemically store energy for an unlimited period of time, making it available for various areas of use and to interconnect industry sectors. Hydrogen as an energy source facilitates the use of renewable resources to generate baseload power. This helps all sectors, i.e. the transport industry as well as power and heat generation, to achieve their climate targets. A rapid market launch of the technology will help the transport sector in particular to meet fleet targets for passenger cars and commercial vehicles quickly and efficiently.

Hydrogen as energy source

The turnaround of the energy and mobility sector poses great challenges in terms of the availability of storage capacity and the integration of renewable resources into the German power distribution structure. Chemical energy sources are steadily gaining in importance as the share of energy generated by highly volatile wind and solar power sources increases. Hydrogen, in particular, is a flexible solution for mid- and long-term energy storage and has great potential to stabilise the German power grid.

As a secondary energy source, hydrogen initially requires energy for its own creation until it can be subsequently used as storage medium. On earth, hydrogen occurs almost exclusively in chemically bound form. Its supply is nearly unlimited, and a great number of methods are available to produce it. Future mobility will mostly rely on electrolytic generation based on power from renewable resources: by means of electrolysis, water is divided into its elements, with the hydrogen being stored and then utilised as a final energy source in various fields of application.

The fuel cell reverses this process: the chemical energy stored in hydrogen is directly converted into power by chemically fusing hydrogen with oxygen from the air, creating nothing but water and some heat as by-products. Fuel cell technology can thereby facilitate a transport system with a near-zero carbon footprint.

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