Swedish car maker Volvo says it is investigating hydrogen technology that could replace or complement its battery-powered electric vehicle drivetrain in under ten years.
Despite plans to reduce its petrol only models and introduce at least one electrified hybrid or fully-electric variant into every model by 2019, the company is not putting all of its efforts behind the one technology.
Volvo vice president of sales and marketing Bjorn Annwall told TMR that the company was still developing both energy systems and fuel cell technology may make an appearance in its cars by 2027, or even earlier.
“You should never say never when it comes to technologies,” Annwall said.
“I think fuel cell is interesting but for the next 10 years it’s batteries. But a fuel cell is essentially a liquid battery, so at some point maybe.”
“What’s the right way of packing fuel cells into a package, what’s the right battery management system. There’s still a lot of potential.
“It’s not very different, you can just replace the batteries with a fuel cells. It’s not like its two different lanes, right? They are similar drive systems,” he said.
Annwall’s comments came when asked about developing solid-state batteries, which appear to be off the cards in favour of fuel cell technology.
Volvo Group’s research and development company, Powercell, has confirmed it has completed a pre-study with its parent company and is planning a 20Kw hydrogen fuel cell range extender that will be fitted to the brand’s XC90 hybrid and will maintain the battery at its optimum capacity to provide full power at all times.
The car company previously moved away from the idea of using petrol-powered range extenders because of concerns over emissions and fuel use but the use of a hydrogen fuelled unit keeps emissions to zero.
Other manufacturers such as Hyundai, which is introducing its Nexo FCEV later this year and Toyota, which is testing it Mirai FCEV in Australia, are making plans to move towards hydrogen power in production vehicles. Unfortunately, there's only one hydrogen filling station available in Australia right now, which drastically reduces the practicality of owning a car like the Nexo, but manufacturers are pooling resources to encourage construction of infrastructure.
However, according to Annwall, such as system is at least five years off from seeing production.
“So maybe if we get some breakthrough in fuel cells, maybe it won’t be that hard to incorporate that into the path we are on right now, but I don’t see that happening in the next five years. But you should never say never,” he said.
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