If Toyota, Hyundai and Honda are right, then the European auto industry risks being condemned once again to pursue rivals. Considering the latest pre-Covid data, when over 91 million vehicles were marketed worldwide, the three groups accounted for almost a quarter of the total. It means that if these homes rely on hydrogen it is possible, if not very likely, that fuel cell technology has a future. Toyota’s plans have been known for some time, so much so that it has even designed an entire city with a hydrogen ecosystem, and those of Hyundai, which has formalized investments for at least 7 billion euros, too.
In announcing its commitment to electrification (from 2040 it will no longer sell cars powered by internal combustion engines), Honda spoke of investments in research and development equal to 38.5 billion euros over the next six years. By 2030, the third Japanese manufacturer aims to reach 40% of volumes in the most important markets with battery and fuel cell electric vehicles. So far the publicly stated target has been two-thirds of global sales with “alternative” models, ie hybrids, plug-in, zero emissions and fuel cells.
The key to the success of the conversion are the accumulators: already by the end of the fiscal year (which in Japan runs from April to March) Honda intends to test the production of the first solid state batteries. The estimate of the CEO Toshihiro Mibe is that the second half of the decade could arrive on production cars, that is the times that Dieter Zetsche, the former Daimler number one, had already anticipated several years ago. Honda is open to collaborations (such as the one with the American General Motors, whose Cadillac subsidiary has just declared complete electrification for 2030) and, as it has already shown in the past, has often chosen different paths from other manufacturers.
“We shouldn’t just rely on ourselves,” said Mibe, who wants to bring the group to carbon neutrality for activities and products by 2050 by also resorting to completely sustainable materials. The other great goal is to eliminate fatal accidents, not only for their cars, but also for Honda-branded motorcycles.
While not specifying the efforts related to hydrogen, Honda continues to have the Clarity in the range, together with Toyota’s Mirai and Hyundai’s Nexo one of the three production fuel cell vehicles. The Volkswagen group has given up on this option, which it does not consider sustainable for at least a decade, Daimler has turned to industrial vehicles only thanks to a cooperation with Volvo Trucks, while BMW has confirmed plans for a variation of the fuel cell X5. Both Renault, Stellantis and Iveco are looking to hydrogen, but for the moment only for commercial vehicles.