eeNews Europe: The market for fuel cell vehicle drives is currently experiencing a dynamic development. How is this technology developing?
Wolfgang Neu: The current dynamic phase began five years ago, when a number of OEMs in Europe turned their attention to this topic more intensively again - primarily Daimler and VW, but also US companies such as GM and Ford. In the last two to three years, this dynamic has intensified considerably. Some large tier-one suppliers have entered the market by buying up start-up companies. An important example is Bosch, which then bought into Nikola Motors. In addition, there have been a few mergers in France - with the result that the start-up scene has cleaned up. This has shifted the focus to the Tier Ones.
Through our cooperation with OEMs such as Audi, Daimler, Volkswagen and others, we know that serious development work is now being done on series production projects. We ourselves are in the process of developing a Cell Voltage Monitoring System (CVM) series electronics for a large Tier One. The dynamics can also be seen in our sales curve - we estimate that this year we will generate a good 50 percent more sales in this product area than in the previous year.
I estimate that all the well-known Tier Ones have now really positioned themselves in the fuel cell sector, and Bosch is probably the most involved. This applies both to the investment volume and the speed of development. I think we will see the first series solutions on the market as early as next year, even if they are still in small quantities.
Truck industry finds fuel cell drives increasingly attractive
eeNews Europe: Does this mean that the corresponding vehicles are already on the road? Or that only the drives are available ready for series production?
Neu: I expect the first vehicles to hit the road next year, albeit still as pre-series vehicles. However, the industry is currently undergoing a reorientation. The current developments are moving in the direction of trucks; the large OEMs have now very uniformly decided to push the battery in the passenger car sector and rely on the fuel cell in the commercial vehicle sector, because very large batteries would be needed in the higher performance and weight classes. These would then be very expensive and, secondly, large and heavy. But the commercial vehicle market is not quite as price-sensitive as the passenger car market, and a long range is also important there. For these reasons, truck and utility vehicle manufacturers are becoming more involved in the development of fuel cells. We are involved in several development projects and also supply test bench measurement technology for the systems currently under development. However, these systems are still a long way from market launch.