Interview with Plenary Speaker Prof. Dr Tong Zhang

Interview with Plenary Speaker Prof. Dr Tong Zhang

“Fuel cells in passenger cars will come later, but they will”

What was the motivation to strengthen China’s decision to increasingly include fuel cells in its future technology plans?

The NEV development strategy is the Chinese national strategy to transform the domestic automobile industry to be independent of fossil oil, to reduce pollution and CO2 emissions. Due to the limitation of material resources and charging infrastructure, BEVs must be supplemented by FCEVs. Last year, China announced to be CO2-neutral in the year 2060. The only way to achieve this target is the use of renewable energy, and H2 is the perfect energy storage medium. And H2 as a major energy carrier in the future energy structure will further promote the FCEV Development.

In your view, what are the prospects for FCEVs in passenger cars – apart from commercial applications, where the advantages are more evident?

The advantage of FCEVs for long-range and high-duty applications is more obvious indeed. Fuel cells in passenger cars will come later, but they will come for sure.  To achieve the CO2 targets worldwide, e-mobility will be needed for all automobile types. However, there are limited material resources, especially lithium, nickel, and cobalt. The charging infrastructure for BEVs will reach limits too. So it is to expect that the battery-electric passenger car sales will reach a ceiling after the high increasing rate in the years ahead of us.

How important is an “openness to technology” in your opinion, in other words: How important do you think it is to keep different paths open in terms of energy sources?

It is essential to have an openness to technology.  Only multiple and diverse energy sources can guarantee to ensure both energy security and CO2 emission reduction.  We should focus on mainstream and mature technologies in the application, but at the same time, other potential sources and technology should also be studied and developed.

Quite recently, HEVs have also gained importance again in China. In your view, what future will both HEVs and PHEVs have in China?

HEVs and PHEVs will succeed in the market especially in the next few years, but the future belongs to battery-electric and fuel-cell electric vehicles.

Learn more in Prof. Dr Tong Zhang´s  plenary speech „The Chinese hydrogen & fuel cell vehicle demonstration program“ at CTI Symposium Germany on 1 December 2021.