Born in the Netherlands, Frank Meijer has 10 years of experience in automotive retail sales and 13 years in business-to-business sales.
Meijer joined Hyundai Motor Europe in 2012 as European Fleet Sales and Remarketing Manager, before becoming responsible for sales and marketing activities for the Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle in Europe.
What is the current status with the development and deployment of fuel cell cars and buses in Europe? What needs to be done to ensure a wider market share for these vehicles?
Hyundai has taken the challenging role to be the first to bring a mass production Fuel Cell car to the market, meaning that our cars are available for all types of customers. We have now delivered vehicles in 11 countries and we are aiming to add 2 more countries by the end of the year. Infrastructure remains the top priority to get a wider acceptance.
Is the development of refuelling infrastructure keeping pace with the deployment of the electric fleet? What are the main challenges that need to be overcome to put the necessary infrastructure in place?
There are big differences in the deployment of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure per country. The largest European initiative is in Germany, on track to have 50 Clean Energy Partnership stations ready by the beginning of 2016.
Another best-practice country, Denmark, has five stations operational, three under construction to be ready very soon, and three more expected to be ready by the beginning of 2016. What makes the Danish example a best practice is the parallel rollout: commitment for a minimum number of cars at the time the decision is made for a new refuelling station.
This parallel rollout is an important consideration. There are some stations in Europe that are built without planning for users – a situation that is also seen with charging stations being installed for electric vehicles that are simply not being used. To avoid this, we are cooperating on a daily basis with infrastructure providers and hydrogen producers to plan our approach to bring cars where the stations are being built.
At a policy level, does the fuel cells and hydrogen sector in Europe receive sufficient support to ensure that it reaches its full potential, or are there other policy measures that need to be considered?
The EU has several demonstration and research projects in place, not only for vehicles but also for stationary units, all to have less pollution and, equally important, to become independent from fossil fuels.
Under several EU Framework Programmes there has been a commitment made to invest almost EUR 17 billion in hydrogen-related projects.
Cost is a key issue for the market-uptake of fuel cell-powered vehicles. What is needed to make fuel cell technology competitive?
Like with all new technologies, production cost can be successfully reduced in line with lower costs in the supply chain, which in turn come from increased volumes. The cost of the ix35 Fuel Cell is already quite competitive, which is helping to attract new customers to consider choosing fuel cell technology.
Our car works just like any other car: users tell us that they are very surprised how easy it is to drive the ix35 Fuel Cell, especially as they don’t have the same anxiety as with electric cars regarding driving range.
But still the most important factor is the infrastructure. This cannot be resolved overnight, and we are realistic, acknowledging that it will take several years to have a sufficiently widespread network of European refuelling stations.
In terms of cost and efficiency, how does hydrogen compare to battery technology for powering electric vehicles?
The most important difference for users in real-world terms is that the Fuel Cell car avoids the limitations on driving range and charging time that are typically associated with a battery-electric vehicle. We believe that there will be a place for battery-electric cars and Fuel Cell vehicles, as well as plug-in hybrids and hybrids. Users will choose the technology that best suits their needs regarding range, vehicle type, cost, and so on.
It is sometimes argued that battery-electric vehicles use electricity more efficiently in transportation. But this does not take into account the energy used to generate the electricity for the battery-electric vehicle. A more accurate comparison would consider total well-to-wheel energy efficiency.
Although generating hydrogen through electrolysis and renewables could be a less efficient pathway, it offers a greater possibility to use otherwise curtailed renewable energy via the inherent storage in the hydrogen delivery system. In this scenario, supply and demand for hydrogen need not be perfectly matched to energy production at all times. Battery energy storage on the grid could alleviate some of this problem, but hydrogen storage inherently provides this function through the delivery system.
The transport sector is a major emitter of greenhouse gasses. How significant a contribution can hydrogen make to the fight against climate change?
Driving a hydrogen-powered car does not emit any greenhouse gases. And there are efforts in place to encourage hydrogen to be made completely from renewable energy sources.
According to forecasts, by 2020 there will be approximately 190 GW of clean wind energy – an increase of 64% compared to 2014. To make optimal use of this, energy storage will play an important role, enabling wind power to be used when it is needed and at the same time provide a 100%-clean source of hydrogen.