Today, around the world, fuel-cell cars are stuck in a chicken-and-egg scenario: Few people have hydrogen cars, so companies don't want to build hydrogen filling stations. And, people don't want hydrogen cars because there aren't many filling stations.
To break the impasse, Linde, a big industrial gases company in Germany, is getting into the transportation business. From this summer, it's launching the world's first car-sharing service for hydrogen cars. It hopes Germans will think differently about hydrogen once they start experiencing it.
"This is an amazing technology, but it's not developing as fast you would hope," says Sandra Scherb, general manager of the new service, called BeeZero. "We can't wait for someone else to develop it. We have to take the lead and do it ourselves."
BeeZero will offer 50 Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell electric vehicles in Munich. The model has a maximum range of about 370 miles, and Linde hopes customers will use them for longer trips—say, to the mountains or visiting family in the country. It hopes to emphasize the superior range of hydrogen fuel cells compared to battery-electric vehicles, which typically offer only about 100 miles on a single charge.
Drivers will be able to rent the cars using an app and keep them for as long as they like. They can fill up the tank along the way or bring the car back empty. But the latter is more likely. Germany has only 19 hydrogen filling stations currently.
Hydrogen cars are quicker to recharge than battery vehicles (it takes about as long as a standard gas vehicle). They produce no tailpipe emissions (aside from a little water). And, potentially, hydrogen is a good way to store renewable power when it can't be used immediately. Linde's hydrogen is made from excess wind energy, as well as bio-methane from landfills. There are currently three main car models on the market—the Hyundai ix35, Honda FCX Clarity, and Toyota Mirai. But Mercedes and Audi have both announced new models recently.
"We want to offer sharing for longer trips outside the city," says Scherb. "It's a way for us to get experience and to bring the technology to the end-consumer who will decide about the market success of this technology."
All Photos: via BeeZero