Hydrogen cars – these models can be purchased in Germany


If you want to know how many hydrogen cars there are in Germany, you have to look a little longer in the official statistics. The Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA) does not list the alternative unit in the overviews of new and existing registrations.

The number is too small for that, according to the authority. Only by scrolling through the model lists will you discover: A total of 507 hydrogen cars are registered in Germany. This is the equivalent of 0.001 percent of all cars in this country.

The figures show that the fuel cell is in a difficult position in the German auto industry. While Volkswagen, Mercedes and BMW are bringing numerous battery electric models to market, hydrogen continues to earn a niche existence.

After all, there are around 18,000 fuel cell vehicles around the world, most of them in Asia and the United States. Far Eastern companies are pioneers in this technology.

The automotive industry, however, is also under great pressure in Europe, CO2 to save. Such models could also help reduce traffic emissions here. Hydrogen can be produced from green electricity and water. The vehicles have a fuel cell on board in which hydrogen is converted into electricity. Run the car’s electric motor. It emits only water vapor.

But German manufacturers struggle with the push. It is too expensive and too complicated, there are too few gas stations.

It looked very different. Between 1994 and 2002 Mercedes presented five prototypes and a small series based on the A-Class with fuel cells running on hydrogen.

BMW introduced the BMW Hydrogen 7 model in 2006. The Bavarians dispensed with a fuel cell and fed cold hydrogen liquid at -253 degrees Celsius from the car’s special tanks directly into the combustion engine. There the hydrogen had to explode and the pistons were moved conventionally – a fascinating idea, but so far removed from everyday life that it was not pursued due to the complex accumulation of hydrogen at extreme temperatures.

Only three models on German roads, two of them for sale

Modern hydrogen cars have a fuel cell and tanks in which the gaseous hydrogen is stored. Now high-pressure tanks are used, in which hydrogen is stored at a pressure of 700 bar.

In Germany, there are currently only three car models of this type on the roads, although only two types are still on offer. Here is the overview:

Toyota Mirai: the market leader

With 12,000 cars sold, the Toyota Mirai is currently the best-selling fuel cell model in the world. The tank holds five kilograms of hydrogen. According to Toyota, this is enough for just over 500 kilometers of driving with a single refueling. The car has been available in Germany since 2015. At the beginning of 2019, 138 Mirai were registered in this country. Meanwhile, according to Toyota, the number has risen to as many as 300. Less than 30 copies are in private hands. This is probably due to the high price. The Mirai currently costs almost 80,000 euros. Mirai models are mainly used by municipalities, mayors and companies. The second generation of Mirai will arrive on the market in 2021. So with an additional hydrogen tank, so that a total of six kilograms of hydrogen can be stored in three tanks. This increases the range almost 700 kilometers.

Hyundai Nexo: the challenger

Korean manufacturer Hyundai has already launched two hydrogen models in Germany. Initially the 2015 Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell, then its successor Nexo from 2018. The Nexo’s three hydrogen tanks can hold 6.33 kilograms of hydrogen. The range according to the NEDC standard is like this about 750 kilometers. The electric motor of the Nexo has an output of 120 kW (163 hp), the base price of the hydrogen SUV is included 77,000 euros. Around 250 Nexo models have been approved in Germany so far. Hyundai is pursuing a rigorous fuel cell strategy. The company plans to produce 700,000 fuel cell systems annually by 2030, it was recently announced. However, they should not only be used in cars, but also in drones, ships and commercial vehicles.

Mercedes GLC F-Cell: the German attempt

Mercedes was the first German manufacturer to bring a small series of hydrogen cars onto the market: the GLC F-Cell SUV. In addition to the fuel cell, the car also had an externally rechargeable lithium-ion battery, so it’s actually a plug-in hybrid vehicle. The hydrogen-powered Mercedes was never available for purchase, only one Rental offer for 799 euros in the month it was advertised. However, the offer was aimed only at a few trading and political partners. The two high-pressure tanks of the GLC F-Cell absorbed a total of 4.4 kilograms of hydrogen, or about Autonomy of 430 kilometers made possible. In addition, up to 50 kilometers came from the 13.5 kWh lithium-ion battery. In April 2020, Mercedes gave it up End of the fuel cell car project known. Production of the GLC F-Cell has been discontinued. As reasons for the end after two years, Mercedes named the low number of hydrogen refueling stations and high-tech costs.

The gas station argument is somewhat surprising, because 85 of the approximately 400 hydrogen filling stations in the world are located in Germany. Only in Japan is there more. “The potential of fuel cell technology and hydrogen as an energy reserve is beyond question. However, the battery is currently superior to the fuel cell in terms of large-scale market launch,” said Mercedes at the request of SPIEGEL. . Daimler’s fuel cell has not become obsolete. It must be tested in a joint venture with the Swedish manufacturer Volvo for use in heavy trucks.

Is there anything else coming?

If you want to buy a hydrogen car in Germany at the moment, in the end you only have the choice between two models: Toyota’s Mirai and Hyundai’s Nexo. If you want to drive a German hydrogen brand, you won’t find anything. After all, Audi and BMW still refer to the fuel cell as “another pillar in the future powertrain portfolio”.

According to Ingolstadt, Audi is currently “in a phase of evaluating what the specific plan for the first time for the fuel cell transmission will look like.” In 2014, the company unveiled the Concept A7 Sportback h-tron-quattro, but Audi has been silent about fuel cell technology ever since.

BMW is apparently a few steps ahead. The automaker plans to launch the Hydrogen Next fuel cell car in small series in 2022. The car will be based on the X5 model SUV and the electric car will be transferred from the BMW iX3.

Honda will likely also keep an eye on the European hydrogen market in the coming years. The Japanese manufacturer has already developed a fuel cell car – the Clarity Fuell Cell sedan. However, it is currently only sold in the US and Japan. When requested, Honda’s focus will be on battery electric vehicles until at least 2022. After that, however, according to a company spokesperson, something could happen in terms of fuel cell cars in Europe.

After the big breakthrough, it doesn’t sound like anything.

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