• Oct 31st 2008 at 3:20PM
  • 24
Spanish Economy newspaper El Economista has published an interview with Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler, in which he says what a lot of our readers have been saying: hydrogen engines don't make sense.
While speaking about Mercedes' upcoming models, Zetsche gave a solid affirmation about downsides of the "hydrogen technology." Hydrogen cars are not viable economically, he said. Zetsche listed the upcoming models and green technologies Mercedes is offering for the next few years: Diesotto, Natural Gas, the Blueefficiency line for the A, B and C series and Bluetec in the U.S. first and in Europe some time afterwards, not to mention the S400 hybrid introduced in Paris. When it comes to future products, Zetsche speaks about the new C250 V6 Bluetefficiency, the new Bluetec diesel hybrids in 2010 and new batteries for the Electric Smart. A lot of technologies, not a lot of H2.

[Source: El Economista]

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Fuel Cell and Battery are a team
      DWV: do not create artificial conflicts where there aren't any!

      There is a broad agreement between car makers, governments and fuel companies: the long term change of road transport has started. Slowly at first, but certainly the electric vehicle will conquer the roads, at first and mainly the private car. The German federal government supports this development towards more sustainable drives in the National Innovation Program „Hydrogen and Fuel Cells“ and in the Initiative for Electromobility.

      There have been comments in this context going so far as to say that this means the end for the fuel cell as energy source for vehicles. They say that the requirements could be met with batteries as well, and nothing else were necessary.

      DWV disagrees sharply with this opinion and points out that there is no contradiction at all between the battery, an electrical storage device, and the fuel cell, an energy converter. They rather complement each other. The pure battery car will not be the general solution for our future mobility needs, but the fuel cell on the other hand can not perform well without a battery.

      Even modern batteries still suffer from the classical disadvantages which set a limit to their use in cars.

      * Batteries are heavy:
      o A ride of 500 km requires a lithium ion battery with a cell weight of 540 kg, and even 830 kg for the whole battery system.
      o The corresponding values for pressurized hydrogen are 6 kg for the fuel (H2) and 125 kg for the full storage.
      * Batteries are large:
      o A ride of 500 km requires a lithium ion battery with cells demanding a space of 360 l and 670 l for the battery system.
      o The corresponding values for pressurized hydrogen are 170 l (fuel) and 260 l (filled storage).
      * Charging batteries takes much time:
      o Eight hours for a full charge are common, two or three hours for 60 km are standard today; systems doing it much faster demand a technical effort far beyond the possibilities of a private home.
      o Filling up a fuel cell car with a technical effort comparable to that of fast charging a battery requires three to five minutes for a range of 400 or 500 km.
      * Battery cars offer only a short range:
      o There is hardly a battery car which goes farther than 200 km with one charge.
      o The Honda FCX Clarity, the most advanced fuel cell hybrid existing today, goes 450 km with one filling under a pressure of 35 MPa (350 bar).

      Intensive research and development will certainly improve the situation of the battery, but real breakthroughs in terms of energy density etc. are not in sight for the next 15 or 20 years. Of course we can not wait that long to start reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from road traffic by means of zero emission engines. And at the same time the position of hydrogen and fuel cells will improve as well.

      The pure battery car will certainly play a role in future transport, but rather in the domain of short rides in a limited time. This might be the case for pure city cars like the fleets of communal companies, utilities, or authorities. This can not be the all-purpose car for the private customer or for commercial service outside the cities. Nobody who goes from Berlin to holiday in Bavaria will like the idea to make three breaks of several hours each.

      So the battery alone is not the solution, but neither is it the fuel cell alone. All fuel cell cars operating or being developed now have a buffer battery to adjust the fuel cell, which should be operated as steadily as possible, to the electric motor, which has a dramatically varying power demand (hybridisation). Another option are plug-in hybrids with fuel cell. No car maker today pretends to be able to do without any type of hybridisation.

      The total ecological balance of a fuel cell car depends mainly on which primary energy is used to generate the hydrogen. Of course the same is true for the electrical power used to charge the battery. While there is general agreement on the first statement, the second one is frequently withheld from the public. Another fact is that hydrogen has to be generated using primary energy, thereby reducing the efficiency of the fuel cell. While this is true it is also a fact that electricity as well has to be produced in processes which incur losses. A clean comparison should be based on the same generation process for both technologies; the problem arising here is that electricity is by no means the only path to generate hydrogen.

      For all these reasons DWV disagrees with the attempts to create an artificial conflict between fuel cells and batteries. They are a team and belong together, and there are enormous synergy effects in the development of both types of electric propulsion. We welcome the support of research and development in the fie
      • 6 Years Ago
      Nice to see someone being honest rather than grabbing all the government money they can get that's been plowed into the hydrogen scam.
      • 6 Years Ago
      When it comes to powering cars, name any alternative that is more economically viable than gasoline. Seriously, when you take into account the costs, they all cost more. That doesn't mean, they shouldn't be pursued.

      Dieter screwed up Chrysler so why should we listen to him anyway?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Electricity is an easy one. It requires batteries. Battery technology isn't ready and it's expensive. Therefore not economical.

        James, those are emerging technologies that are not yet viable. I hope that they will be, but not yet.

        If, in the next few years, economics are your primary concern, ICE is the way to go.
        • 6 Years Ago
        A lot of you folks may not have heard this phrase in a long time (if ever), but there's something called gas subsidies that was discussed a lot in the '70s and ought to be brought up again now.

        The U.S. government has historically subsidized gasoline so ours has been the cheapest in the world. Don't believe me? Just look at any country's gas prices besides maybe Saudi Arabia and China. Ours may not seem the cheapest anymore, but we're still a lot cheaper than many others.

        Point is, at least to me, this whole "hydrogen" argument sounds a bit misleading. What form of hydrogen? Are we talking hydrogen fuel cell or straight hydrogen? And, as someone brought up, what is this guy's agenda? Is he just buying time so the hydrogen distribution network can grow, or is he dictating to the rest of us that we're just stuck with our gas or electric vehicles until the world economy collapses? Too many presumptions being made by this article that aren't readily explained.

        Why not HHO? But don't compress it! You don't have to, if you have an on-board generator (see www.water4gas.com, for one). When you have the oxidizer present (i.e., the oxygen atom), you have to be careful, but it gives you a lot more bang for your buck than plain ol' hydrogen. And you can increase your gas mileage by double or more. No joke. Do your homework.

        Bottom line: why let the car companies dictate what you do to your car? If you can generate your own HHO, why not thumb your nose at the globalist corporations and do the simple modifications to your gas-burner?
        • 6 Years Ago
        First off, the US Government doesn't really "subsidize" gasoline, it merely charges much less tax than other nations, and doesn't collect nearly as much in royalties from oil pumped from US oil wells.

        As for "forms" used for vehicles, hydrogen only comes in two forms - a diatomic H2 gas with very low density that must be highly compressed to get enough to power a car for any distance, and a cryogenic H2 liquid chilled to an ultracold temperature. A "fuel cell" is a device that electrochemically reacts a fuel (usually hydrogen) with an oxidizer (usually oxygen) to produce electrical power. You may have it confused with water electrolysis, which is the exact opposite, using electrical power to split water into 2 parts H2 gas and 1 part O2 gas. Combine those gasses, and you get what is misleadingly termed "HHO" or "Browns Gas", a highly flammable mixture that can become explosive if compressed.

        Browns gas is very low density, when injected into the air intake it displaces air, leaving less to burn petroleum fuels. That in turn requires reducing the fuel injected, and also reduces the power output. In short, "HHO" devices improve fuel economy by reducing power and performance. It would be cheaper to just go lightly on the gas pedal, and more efficient to use a less powerful engine. Coincidentally, the same phenomenon is noted in dual fuel H2/petrol cars like the BMW Hydrogen 7 and the Mazda Hydrogen RX prototype - a dramatic reduction in power output when running on pure hydrogen.

        As for Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler, his agenda is improving profits for Daimler. His company did some government sponsored research on H2 fueled cars that will end when government funding ends. His own corporate research tells him that it is still too expensive to be practical.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Electricity is not yet cost-competitive (total cost of ownership) with gasoline, but I expect that to change, and sooner than you would think. At the current rate of progress in battery, super-cap, motor, and PV technology, the tipping point is likely to be in two years or less.

        I'm definitely hoping my next vehicle will not need an ICE.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Algae biodiesel.

        That wasn't too hard.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Thank goodness one top automotive executive finally figured it out - the Emperors Hydrogen Car is revealed in all its million dollar glory as waaay overpriced. Wonder how long it will take for the other top auto executives to get the message.

      There is a big difference between "Technically Feasible" and "Economically Feasible". It has long been technically possible to power a car with hydrogen, but the high costs of hydrogen fuel, hydrogen storage and hydrogen storage make it too expensive to be practical. It would take a long series of unforseen breakthroughs to make hydrogen cars affordable.

      • 6 Years Ago
      H2 is a joke. Anyone should know this It takes more energy to make , compress and transport the gas then i t will has.

      Also the fact that it comes from Natural gas. Why add all those extra steps when you could just burn natural gas

      If your car runs on Lh2 youll have half your tank vented in a couple of days
      • 6 Years Ago
      What Dieter Zetsche really said:

      Nuestro prototipo F600 deja claro que la pila de combustible tiene futuro, aunque no es una solución industrial y económicamente viable a corto plazo.

      = "Our prototype F 600 makes it clear that the fuel cell has a future, although it is not a economically viable and industrial solution in a short timeframe."


      "llevo más de treinta años fabricando motores, y le puedo asegurar que los motores de hidrógeno son económicamente inviables."

      = I'm producing motors for 30 years now and let me say to you that internal combustion engines are economically inviables.

      These are the 2 comments that he made about Hydrogen cars.

        • 6 Years Ago
        i wanted to say:

        Mr. Zetsche told:

        "Hydrogen combustion engines are economically not viable" (not "internal combustion engines" than i posted before).

        but theres a point i wanted to figure out:

        article is not posted correctely, the following:

        "While speaking about Mercedes' upcoming models, Zetsche gave a solid affirmation about downsides of the "hydrogen technology." Hydrogen cars are not viable economically, he said."

        nformation is not correct. He only said, that hydrogen internal combustion engines are not economically viable. But he does not speak about hydrogen cars in general. Please try to give the correct information, i also did not read in "el economista" that he gave a solid affirmation about downsides of the hydrogen technology. I don't know where you read this.

        The article is posted here:


        This information is not correct. We all know about problems of hydrogen fuel cell cars, but also about their chances and possibilities. A really objective discussion about the "best" solution (that does not exist, thats for sure), should try to repeat information correctly.

      • 6 Years Ago
      Finally a car maker that sees the fact that the hydrogen highway is a dead end.

      There are 3 things required to distribute energy for automobile use, manufacture, distribution and dispensing. Hydrogen does not have any of these things in place it will have to be built. There are very few places to manufacture the hydrogen fuel in the quantities required. There is no distribution network in the form of truck and or pipe lines to transport the fuel. Also there is nowhere near enough hydrogen stations to do the job. Between 20,000 and 50,000 have to be built to even come close the convince of gasoline.

      Electricity on the other hand already has manufacture in place. It also has a vast distribution network in place ready to go, can you think of any building within 50 miles that was never intended to have electricity? And lastly there is the dispensing problem which boils down to how juice do you need? If you can charge from an ordinary outlet you have billions of dispensing points in place. A simple expansion of existing infrastructure and the needs of 180 million cars are provided for.

      To get an idea of the costs involved take a look at a recently completed hydrogen fueling station in the Sacramento area. It has a 80 kilowatt solar power array on the top of it (a plus). It manufactures 12 gallons equivalent of hydrogen fuel a day (a plus in the distribution area no transport required). The cost for this quaint little unit, $1.2 million. And now the most shocking part, this station can only provide fuel for 8 to 10 cars PER DAY. How much is the owner going to have to charge per fill up to playback the loan and cover overhead? The solar array takes up the better part of a city block. How many of these are going to have to be built to satisfy Los Angeles' fuel requirements alone?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Bit of a one liner about hydrogen. Sounds more like he's backing his company position which is expected and then backing it up with a statement saying he's made engines for the last 30 years. Essentially a head of Daimler giving an opinion and nothing more which pushes the current and immediate future cars.

      Disappointing, I was hoping he was going to back it up with something.... anything. Nothing new at all or of any substance and not anything that people haven't heard before, but this time in Spanish!
        • 6 Years Ago
        He doesn't have to back anything up, his opinion is based on science and maximum theoretical efficiency.

        Where is the proof that hydrogen is anything more than a marketing ploy? So far a handful of million dollar cars have been produced with lots of hand waving about where the hydrogen will come from and how much it will cost. This only proves that it is possible to power a vehicle with hydrogen, it does not prove that it is economically feasible or that this path is the most efficient way to use our limited resources.

        In the future energy will be scarce and expensive so we need to use energy in the most efficient way possible. Existing electric vehicle powertrain components are 85-95% efficient.

      • 6 Years Ago
      I guess before posting this twisted news you should make a better reading of his interview...

      What he said on the interview is that fuel cell cars, which use hydrogen, are possible, not for the short term, but with development they are promissing.

      When they asked about BMW cars, which use hydrogen in ICEs, he mentinoed that this will would be a dead end.

      So, he did not said that hydrogen cars are not economic viable, but instead, he said that hydrogen ICEs are not possible. Fuel cells remaing a viable technology with further development.

        • 6 Years Ago
        I do not want to fight for this because we really do not know where the technology is going...I work close to this and I can tell that you chose a failed example for comparison.Frying eggs is one thing...Having a car that is more efficient (will save you money) and you will have to drive because governments will start to regulate emissions once climate is going really bad is another thing. The price of technologies are expensive in the beginning and everyone knows that...why do you think you pay 30,000$ in a car? It is because they produces millions and miliions of it since 100 years ago, so all the components were optimized, cost reduced and mass produced. Fuel cells are expensive, but breakthroughs are happening everyday, components are being developed and mass producing is just a matter of time and I agree hydrogen infrastructure. Or why do you think GM invested more than 1 billion in it? why do you think Daimler and Ford putted 120 million in a recent acquisition of fuel cell company? Honda and Toyota are spending millions? I believe they have people much more smater than someguy that compares gold pans to fuel cell cars...
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yes, hydrogen powered cars are possible in the same way that solid gold frying pans are possible - it's been done, but it really isn't practical for everyday use.

        National Geographic once did an article on gold, and for a lark had a solid gold frying pan fabricated, which was tested out by Julia Childs. She reported that it was an excellent (if heavy) omlette pan with great thermal conductivity, and eggs didn't stick to it. So why aren't we all cooking with solid gold pans?

        It's obvious. The cost is excessive, which is the exact same reason we aren't driving H2 powered cars.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Solid gold frying pans are too expensive because they would require large quantities of expensive gold. PEM fuel cells cost too much because they require large quantities of even more expensive platinum. Sorry, but mass production can't drop the price enough, if it increases demand for those rare and expensive metals the price would go up, not down.

        There are several reasons why the auto makers have been fiddling with H2 fuel cell cars; They see them as yet another concept car that gives lots of publicity but won't ever be produced. They are getting lots of government grants for development. Their H2 researchers won't tell them it is a bad idea as their jobs depend on the hype continuing. They are doing it because everyone else is doing it.

        Of course, now that Dr. Z has revealed the truth, I expect the hydrogen hype to slowly die out. 2 decades from now, we'll be asking "Whatever happened to the hydrogen car?"

      • 6 Years Ago
      Yep - the hydrogen highway is going nowhere. I'm glad the scam has been rumbled.

      Excitedly diverting vast amounts of money and effort into developing hydrogen as a transport fuel is playing into the hands of those who want to give gasoline and diesel another 15, 20 or 25 years of life by providing a distraction from the more immediate alternatives.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Im almost sure these incompetants car manufacturers have decided all together to stop hydrogen research and developement and especially to not insist anymore about putting these on the market. They already lost 30-40 billions on hydrogen research and development in the last 10 years. Just to start an assembly line it will cost even more because it's an almost complete different architecture then an ice engine car, electric motors, hydrogen fuelcell, wiring, capacitors, drive-line, high current electrical rectifiers,transformer,controllers, different computer programming, different breaking system, completely different fuel tank, different everything. They all succeded their research and devellopment but if you look at the honda clarity then it's the best of all, a 100% complete new car architecture well more developed then gm, toyota,ford,mercedes,volks, etc. Honde even succeded to commercialize it. And there been the first in 1998 to present a prototype.

      At least i hope that the idea of putting natural gas cars on the market will start , this year or next and i will feel useful when i will flush my toilet.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hydrogen was and is a scam. It is unbelievable that so many bought into it.
    • Load More Comments
    Share This Photo X