“The biggest EVS yet,” Thomas Walter, part of the team that manages Messe Stuttgart, exclaimed when he opened the 30th Electric Vehicle Symposium on Oct. 9, 2017. At this point, he thought that he was dealing with 5,000 conference participants and trade show visitors, but the actual number was closer to 9,500. For these 3 days, the German city of Stuttgart could have been the world capital of electric transportation.
Even the organizers were surprised by the rush of people eager to attend EVS, the Electric Vehicle Symposium & Exhibition, in 2017. There were so many requests, especially in the 3 days leading up to the event, that official registration had to be stopped. In all, according to the official count, about 1,700 attendees, from 53 countries, flocked to last year’s EVS conference to update themselves on recent developments in electric transportation at the International Congress Center Stuttgart. And instead of the 250 exhibitors initially anticipated, there were 353.
Staying disruptive through electrification
The organizers used what you might call an oversized auditorium to publicly declare that Stuttgart was to usher in a “new era of clean transportation.” Alluding to the Bonn climate summit, COP23 (see Hydrogen featured at climate conference COP23), the declaration was meant to spread “a message of hope, a true assessment of feasibility and a call to action.” Espen Hauge, president of the World Electric Vehicle Association, affirmed that …
“The life cycle assessment has already turned out positive, despite the difficulties of making a clean product in a dirty economy […] The global CO2 emissions of an electric vehicle can be up to 13 times lower than that of a comparable combustion engine car. This figure includes emissions for producing the vehicle if renewable energy is used to generate the electricity.”
Espen Hauge, World Electric Vehicle Association
There were also admonishing voices. Winfried Kretschmann, governor of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, explained that a lot was at stake. He said, “Our role as pioneers in technology, our economic power, our jobs and our natural environment must be protected from the consequences of a changing climate. The challenges are great.” He added, “It’s clear that in Baden-Württemberg we will have to shift into high gear.” In the same vein, the chair of the National Platform for Electric Mobility, Henning Kagermann, said that more marketing would help.
An Airbus for batteries
Maroš Šefčovič from the European Commission called for a strong commitment to …
Plea to keep the combustion engine running
Daimler’s answer to the emissions problem in the transportation sector couldn’t have been more contradictory. Ola Källenius, board member and head of research at the automaker, showed a highly polished presentation including emotionally charged video clips and a bombastic musical score. The basic message was that Daimler would continue with internal combustion engines. For several minutes and without a glance at any notes, Källenius, who is to succeed Dieter Zetsche as chairman of the board in 2019, went on about the merits of conventional technologies. He showed the audience combustion-based racecar engines to be implemented in high-end vehicles by AMG for the road. Then, he asked, “Why did I tell you all this at a conference about electric transportation?”
His answer was that even in 2025, according to the German National Platform for Electromobility, only every fourth vehicle sold on the market is expected to be powered by electricity. The remaining 75 percent would rely on internal combustion engines, which Daimler aims to make as efficient and clean as possible by hybridizing them in cars, vans, trucks and buses.
Although his presentation was anything but encouraging for the electric transportation sector, it was met with a great deal of applause, perhaps partly related to its being delivered in Daimler’s home city.
The fact that a booming electric vehicle market could bring about new challenges was evident by the amount of energy needed for the many e-cars arriving in Baden-Württemberg’s capital. Thomas Walter reported that around 60 charging points, fed by a giant battery, were temporarily set up on the show grounds.
No doom and gloom
The first exhibition hall was well filled by over 350 exhibitors, and even during the conference sessions, it wasn’t boring at the booths. Although at first glance, the companies dealing with hydrogen and fuel cell technology seemed rather small in numbers, more than 40, along with their latest offerings, could be discovered by consulting the program for the event.
For the first time, the Asahi Kasei Group, a Japanese chemical company, showed its systems for producing ammonia and hydrogen to the German hydrogen community.
Even Bosch, which primarily demonstrated its electric vehicle designs, presented some fuel cell technology. However, Harald Fischer said that his company hadn’t yet decided on whether it would develop its own stack. Instead, Bosch had entered into partnership with several manufacturers, for example, Hydrogenics, ElringKlinger, PowerCell and Ballard.
The Jülich research center used the show as an opportunity to present its study, commissioned by H2 Mobility, on the cost of infrastructure for hydrogen cars and battery-powered cars. During a press conference, the authors of the study, Detlef Stolten and Martin Robinius, and other experts discussed the cost-effectiveness of Germany expanding both its electrical and hydrogen infrastructure. More on this in the April 2018 issue of H2-international.
The organizers also indicated their satisfaction with the networking event running parallel to the exhibition. Around 200 industry specialists signed up for altogether 500 one-on-one talks. This service, Peter Sauber said, was also to be offered during the f-cell 2018 to promote and strengthen ties within the hydrogen and fuel cell community.
Who’s looking after hydrogen?
During the EVS30 press conference, Henning Kagermann made clear where he stands on the issue of fuel cell cars and why they’re barely considered in recommendations coming from his association. “There are enough complementary organizations that take care of hydrogen,” he said. Exactly which ones he meant, however, wasn’t so clear. For example, has the task of creating a roadmap for the introduction of fuel cell cars been assigned to NOW, the National Organization Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology?
The f-cell awards of the year were presented in a convention hall on the show grounds. Since many symposium participants were invited, the ceremony was rather large, yet every award felt special. The state’s minister for the environment, Franz Untersteller, certainly knew how to give a speech stressing both the advantages and challenges of electric transportation. He referenced some rather inhumane practices involved in the mining of important raw materials for e-cars, but also mentioned some advancements made in fuel cell technology, from both ElringKlinger and Bosch, for example.
The winner in the Products & Market category once again came from Freudenberg. The corporation’s Filtration Technologies division in Weinheim, Germany, received an award for its innovative air intake filter. This fuel cell filter system helps to reduce flow resistance, increasing efficiency. In the Research & Development category, the University of Augsburg’s Institute of Textile Technology and RWTH Aachen University’s Institute of Applied Microbiology received EUR 10,000 in prize money for their collaboration during TexKoMBZ. The research groups jointly designed a new electrode for microbial fuel cells. The bio-anode might make it possible to obtain electricity from wastewater (see article in the April 2018 issue of H2-international).
In June 2017, Messe Stuttgart announced that an electric transportation alliance called elect! had been established. During EVS30, Thomas Walter said that the platform would be turned into a trade show called elect!, to be held Oct. 8 through 10, 2018.