»Building an integrated energy system.«

Klaus Bonhoff, chief executive of the National Organization for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NOW), explains why the increasing distribution of electric cars encourages the coupling of important sectors like electricity production, transport and the move towards renewables.

February, 2017

This symbol, which represents a charging cable, appears on a prototype of a self-driving, electric vehicle. From the laboratory of computer science at the Free University of Berlin.

© Andreas Pein/laif

Mr. Bonhoff, until recently electric-powered vehicles were not that common in Germany. Is that something that will change in future?

Yes. First of all, the government premium for buying an electric car in Germany will start to take effect. Secondly, the charging infrastructure for electric cars will be significantly expanded over the next few years; the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure’s target is to add a further 15,000 charging stations by 2020. Thirdly, car manufacturers will offer a wider range of electric models and thus attract a wider cross-section of customers than before. And finally, the cars’ driving range, often cited as a critical factor, will noticeably improve, on account of technological advances.

We often hear that electro-mobility is particularly important for the success of the changeover process in energy policy – why?

Germany can only reach the climate protection goals it is striving for if there is a large-scale change over to electrical drive systems and electricity-based fuels such as hydrogen. In addition, the electricity produced from renewable energy sources has to be efficient and economically cost-effective to use across all energy sectors. Hydrogen, produced from renewable electricity through electrolysis, could be the link that’s needed to yoke together the energy sectors and build up an integrated energy system in Germany. In addition, we will also need electricity storage and transformation facilities to deal with fluctuations in electricity supply. Electric-powered vehicles could play an important role here.

What are the most interesting foreign investment opportunities in the electro-mobility sector?

The increasing electrification of transport will change the supply structure for fuels. For efficient vehicles in the goods transport sector, meaning trucks, trains, ships and aircraft, use of a purely battery-driven engine is possible to a limited extent. In this case, electricity-based fuels such as hydrogen will need to be developed and put into use on a national scale.

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