Some weak points – German researchers want to change this

Long range and no emissions: the fuel cell is the ideal engine for the car – but so far only in theory. Because certain weak points are an obstacle to their triumphant march. German researchers want to change this.

Many see the hydrogen car as the ideal solution for clean mobility – for three main reasons:

  • No poison comes from the exhaust, only water vapor.
  • You can go as far with a tank charge as you can with a gasoline engine.
  • And filling is just as quick – unlike an electric car.

However, the fuel cell does not even play a secondary role on our roads. There are around 400 hydrogen vehicles throughout Germany. That’s a 0.0006 percent share – essentially nothing.

The disadvantages of the hydrogen reader

There are also good reasons for this:

  • Hydrogen cars are expensive. The Toyota Mirage, for example, one of the very few fuel cell models, costs 78,600 euros.
  • The infrastructure is lacking. There are currently not even 100 public hydrogen filling stations. For a national infrastructure, however, 3,000 to 5,000 hydrogen filling stations would be needed, according to automotive expert Ferdinand Dudenhöffer. Instead, the public sector prefers to invest in charging stations for the electric car.
  • Training is currently inefficient: only a quarter of the energy originally used is used for driving – the rest is lost first.
  • Batteries are getting cheaper. And with them the electric car. This should increase demand. The charging infrastructure is also improving. The hydrogen car cannot keep up.

Due to these drawbacks (find out more here) fuel cell going through tough times Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU in Chemnitz are working on solutions – and are already talking about a breakthrough.

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Fuel cell: this is how technology works. (Source package:

This is how the fuel cell should become affordable

Their intention: the fuel cell should become affordable and suitable for the masses. To do this, they tested every component of the player. They are currently operating at the heart of the reader, which is called the “stack”. This is where the electricity that powers the car is produced. And here, the IWU researchers see a lot of potential:

  • Battery production is hardly automated – unlike the production of other drives in the automotive industry.
  • Each stack is made up of cells stacked on top of each other. Some of these cells, called bipolar plates, have so far been made of graphite. If thin metal foils are used instead, the stack can be mass produced quickly and inexpensively.
  • In addition, the components of the hydrogen drive are not standardized. This is what makes them so expensive.

Batteries, bipolar plates – if you’ve lost sight of the big picture, a few numbers can help. They also come from the IWU and show the benefits that the whole effort should have:

  • In the future, 5,000 to 10,000 such cells could be created each year. There are currently around 300.
  • Assembly time is reduced by approximately 95%.
  • Installation costs are reduced by at least 90 percent.

In short, the hydrogen car would be much cheaper. This does not eliminate the other disadvantages (see above). But IWU researchers could get the ball rolling.

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