Within the automotive industry, fuel cells are regarded as the only viable complement to battery technology, and for good reason. Batteries merely store energy, whereas fuel cells can actually convert that energy. They convert hydrogen mainly into electrical energy, and the only waste product, water vapor, is perfectly harmless. Fuel cells – or to be more precise, protonexchange membrane fuel cells (PEM fuel cells for short) – could therefore be the solution that provides us with clean mobility for the future.
So, is the fuel cell just hype, or is it a real alternative to the conventional combustion engine? Dr. Jürgen Kraft specializes in fuel cell technology and is convinced that it has a definite place in tomorrow’s automotive world. As a physicist, he leads a team developing PEM fuel cell stacks at ElringKlinger, exploring the potential of fuel cells for broader industrialization. He is fully aware of the many benefits associated with fuel cells: “A vehicle equipped with PEM fuel cells can travel more than 500 kilometers, and refueling takes as little as two to five minutes.” If the hydrogen is sourced from renewable energy, you have a completely pollution-free form of mobility. Another advantage is that the heat generated when the energy is converted can be used – in winter, for example – to keep the vehicle interior warm, therefore avoiding any reduction in the vehicle’s range compared with battery-powered vehicles. There is a huge range of potential applications. Cars, buses, light commercial vehicles, trucks, trains, and warehouse vehicles such as forklifts are all predestined to be equipped with fuel cell drives.