An automotive industry expert in Germany recently issued a bold dismissal of electric vehicles, declaring that EVs will be overtaken by hydrogen-powered cars. Before an audience, Dr. Felix Gress, head of Continental’s corporate communications and public affairs, argued that battery-electric vehicles represent poor value for money compared to diesel and petrol alternatives.
While Gress admitted that electric cars today are grabbing headlines and the attention of the automotive industry, the Continental executive predicted that the market would see shift to hydrogen in the next decade or so. “The fuel cell is not ready to kick in yet. By 2030, we’ll see that coming, especially in passenger cars that run long distances, or trucks… Fuel cell is not out of reach, I would say. The question is when it would kick in. We are working on that area, too,” the executive argued.
Gress added that electric cars will have difficulties finding acceptance among car buyers. “For the customers, it will be difficult to accept such a car in the market – you pay a higher price, you get less of a car, so it will be a tough sell,” he said, stating that based on Continental’s estimates, battery technology, and in extension, EVs in general, have their limits. “The battery technology, according to our estimations, has its limits. It doesn’t generate enough range for some people’s needs,” he added.
The Continental executive’s dismissive stance on electric cars run parallel to that of BMW’s director of development, Klaus Frölich, who recently stated that electric vehicles have no demand. During a recent round table interview in Munich, Frölich noted that “there is no customer requests for BEVs.” Responding to Europe’s Transport and Environment lobby group, which is pushing for the adoption of more electric cars, the executive fired back, arguing that BMW could easily flood the market with EVs, but no one will buy them.
“If we have a big offer, a big incentive, we could flood Europe and sell a million cars, but Europeans won’t buy these things. Customers in Europe do not buy EVs. We pressed these cars into the market, and they’re not wanted. We can deliver an electrified vehicle to each person, but they will not buy them,” the executive said.
Unlike Gress from Continental, Frölich instead argued for plug-in hybrids, which use both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. He did note that BMW will still make pure electric cars for the US and China, but the company will concentrate its efforts to bring plug-in hybrids with 80 km (49 miles) of pure electric range. “PHEV gives them full freedom and 80 km of EV range,” he said.
It is quite surprising to see an executive from Continental, the same company that recognized the potential of Tesla as a player in the vehicle software market, completely dismiss electric vehicles as but a prelude to hydrogen propulsion. Hydrogen vehicles, after all, have been around for a while, and for the most part, they have stagnated. The Toyota Mirai, for example, has been around for years, but it has proven to be nowhere near as popular as the Prius, the company’s breakthrough hybrid car.
One thing where both Gress from Continental and Frölich from BMW seem to agree on is that electric vehicle batteries have limitations that could not be overcome. This is a flawed assumption, as batteries have continued to evolve over the years. Tesla, for example, has made significant breakthroughs in battery technology in recent years, as shown in the 2170 cells of the Model 3 Performance, which help the vehicle handle the extreme demands of closed circuit driving. By the end of Gress’ 2030 estimate for hydrogen cars, electric car batteries will most definitely not be the same as they are today.
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