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11-02-2020 | Drivetrain | News | Article

"Otherwise, we‘ll royally screw up Paris 2050"

Alexander Heintzel
2:30 min reading time

When it comes to climate protection, it is important to discuss all alternative solutions in a technologically open manner. In the interview, Dr. Norbert W. Alt, FEV, sees e-fuels as a central building block for meeting the Paris climate targets. Dr. Alt, which possible solutions do you see to the CO2 problem in the transport sector?

Alt: What is clear is that we need the energy mix of electricity and e-fuel. In a world of regenerative power generation, this happens automatically. If we move towards renewable power generation with more than 90 percent solar and wind, we will have the problem of volatility in power generation. Therefore we need to have temporary buffer storage units, and that means chemical buffer storage using hydrogen in a first step. In this case, a reconversion into electricity makes only limited sense. This leaves e-fuels on the one hand and battery electric vehicles on the other, and then we also have hydrogen in the fuel cell. Which is definitely a technology that will come a little later than pure battery electric electric mobility. And for combustion engines, only hybrid vehicles make sense. So you have to wait and see how the market reacts, because we don’t offer a certain product just for the fun of it. 

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Reducing CO2 emissions in the transport sector is a highly controversial and emotionally charged subject. Facts and more foresight from politicians are needed. In the MTZ interview Dr. Norbert W. Alt, Chairman of the Executive Board of FEV Europe GmbH, calls for a technology-neutral approach which is urgently needed to ensure that the Paris climate goals are met. 

People only buy a product if they think they provide some benefit. There are a lot of combinations: Battery electric vehicles are also available in fully electric, with range extender, as plug-in, serial or parallel hybrid. And we see the fuel cell as a very important alternative, especially in heavy vehicles, for example for SUVs. At our Zero-CO2-Conference, 40 kWh were mentioned as a reasonable battery size. Coming from there, one should then think about e-fuel range extenders or the fuel cell, especially since the German government now has actual plans to improve the hydrogen infrastructure. It’s really important that we get out of this ideological discussion: those who are in favor of electric vehicles on the one side, those in favor of internal combustion engines on the other. That’s stupid. We need both, the hybrid and the fuel cell, otherwise we‘ll royally screw up Paris 2050. 

Are you taking into account the use of so-called grey hydrogen, which is still largely dumped?

We can and should of course use it, but in the long term we’re after regenerative and CO2-free hydrogen. Taking the keyword alternative technologies: You can use hydrogen in the fuel cell, but of course you can also use it in the combustion engine, which makes sense especially in commercial vehicles. 

Which steps do we need to take to ensure that we get e-fuels onto the market quickly in addition to electric vehicles?

First off, we need to think Well-to-Wheel instead of Tank-to-Wheel, that’s the basis. Second, we need political support, including demands for e-fuels in the sense that gas station operators should be made to offer them, with fixed proportions of e-fuel in the fuel, from, for example, today’s 10 to 100 percent in the future.

You can read more on the subject in the interview with Norbert W. Alt in MTZ worldwide 3-2020.

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