Studies have said it takes more energy to produce hydrogen than it yields, and costs of its in-car storage and lack of infrastructure are major hurdles also seemingly brushed aside by some automakers, but not Volkswagen.

Yesterday Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn told Automotive News that plug-in hybrids and natural gas engines have a much better chance to succeed over the next decade than fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), and this is where the company will spend more of its efforts.

“I do not see the infrastructure for fuel cell vehicles, and I do not see how hydrogen can be produced on large scale at reasonable cost,” Automotive News reported Winterkorn said through a translator at VW headquarters. “I do not currently see a situation where we can offer fuel cell vehicles at a reasonable cost that consumers would also be willing to pay.”

The company says it will keep fuel cell irons in the fire, as it were, and continue studying the dilemma it sees with fuel cells, but its bearish tone rings in marked contrast to publicized efforts by Daimler, Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, and others.

If inclined to see things Winterkorn’s way, observers might say he has adopted the stance of the boy who commented on the “emperor’s new clothes,” in the classic fable where the king was actually unclothed, but no one would say it.

Reportedly speaking with a major rival in mind, Daimler, Winterkorn generally said that the way competing automakers have boasted of their fuel cell efforts, one could have anticipated their entire fleet would be fuel-cell by 2012.

Mercedes-Benz has made a number of efforts to drum up interest for its F-Cell. And it’s been at it for a while as it says the game is still on.

In 1994, Daimler AG introduced its NECAR – short for “new electric car” – and has recently struck an agreement with Ford and Renault-Nissan to launch jointly designed FCEVs in 2017.

Another year to watch on the FCEV front is 2015. This is when Toyota has said it will launch its FCV-R fuel cell car, and this same year Hyundai has said it will sell thousands of ix35 SUVs in all 50 United States.

Honda has plugged away as a lone pioneer, and has leased an estimated 40 of its FCX Clarity since 2008.

VW has started to increase development and announcements of plug-in hybrids, including the pending limited-production XL1 diesel plug-in hybrid (photo) said to achieve 261 mpg.

More trickle-down and shared technology is expected to follow into VW Group’s more everyday lines of vehicles.

The occasion for Winterkorn’s scorn for FCEVs, and plug for plug-ins followed the Geneva auto show this month. There, Volkswagen AG announced its strategy to eventually sell a plug-in hybrid version in every vehicle segment of all its various brands.

Automotive News