Daimler Tipping Toward EVs Over Fuel Cell Vehicles, Chief Says

Daimler is leaning towards plug-in vehicles over fuel cells in its zero emission vehicle strategy.

At an automotive congress in Stuttgart, Germany, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said that battery-powered vehicles are getting attention much more than fuel cell vehicles at the company, according to Smart2Zero.

The German automaker just recently reset its schedule for rolling out 10 new all-electric vehicles under the new EQ subbrand. During that launch last fall, it was set for completion by 2050; now the company is shooting for 2022 to roll out all of these electric vehicles.

While regulators in Europe and other parts of the world support hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) as a zero emission vehicle solution, the market has been favoring EVs.

Pressure has been mounting on European automakers, including Daimler, to answer allegations over diesel emissions cheating; and Europe and China will be seeing emissions rules tighten starting in 2020. Competition from Tesla, especially after taking about 400,000 down payments last year on its Model 3, is thought to be another pressure point leading Daimler and competitors to embrace ambitious EV launch targets.

Years ago, FCVs were on par with EVs as an alternative powertrain solution automakers were testing out. Daimler became known for rolling out its limited production F-Cell vehicle, and has supported hydrogen fueling development in Europe and the U.S.

Daimler has been more like General Motors on fuel cell vehicles – more in the testing mode – than like Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda. These three Asian automakers are covering their bases by adding more plug-in vehicles to their planning; but they’ve so far been the most serious and committed companies on bringing more FCVs to market.

The German automaker will continue to take FCVs somewhat seriously, with plans for its Mercedes division to launch a fuel-cell plug-in hybrid version of its GLC crossover.

The company is likely to continue testing and supporting FCV technology and the hydrogen fueling infrastructure. In January, the company forged an alliance with BMW, Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota, and oil and gas companies Royal Dutch Shell and Total SA, to jointly invest about 10 billion euros ($10.7 billion) in hydrogen-related products within five years.

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Daimler’s homeland, Germany, has been a hotbed for hydrogen fueling, with support for an expanding network. Along with the vapor tailpipe emissions, fast fueling and increasing range has been attractive to many.

EVs are seeing breakthroughs that are helping the scale tip more its way. The charging infrastructure, including fast chargers, has been growing in leaps and bounds around the world. Lithium-ion batteries are becoming more affordable and energy dense, setting the stage for 200-mile-plus EVs like the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 to mass adoption forward.

FCVs are fascinating to many but are still in an embryonic phase on the vehicle sales and fueling infrastructure fronts.


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