Interview with Martin Wippermann, member of REHAU's Automotive Business Management Team
One consequence of the rapidly growing global population is an increase in energy needs which can no longer be covered by fossil fuels. Mobility for the Future requires solutions which make longer journeys and quick fuelling possible and from today's standpoint, this is only possible with hydrogen. REHAU has been focusing on the topic of alternative propulsion options for years now and is carrying out research in a number of areas which can provide further assistance when it comes to making the breakthrough for hydrogen technology.
2. Which specific solutions does REHAU offer the automotive industry?
One focus of research at REHAU is system development for the transport and storage of hydrogen. Our target is to make piping systems with polymer connection solutions ready for serial production. Much like conventional systems made out of aluminum or metal, these systems meet the demands of, for example, transporting hydrogen, but also offer the benefits of simple laying compatibility, low weight and material/resources-preserving construction. When storing hydrogen REHAU has developed a special pressure tank in the vehicle which makes sure that enough hydrogen can be carried so as to be able to easily cover long distances.
3. How valuable to REHAU is Research + Development in this area?
Research and Development have been the supporting pillars of REHAU since the company was founded. The steady development of innovative product solutions and methods, the further development of existing products and the discovery of new technology are the guarantors of the success of each one of our business segments. This also includes discovering storage and transport options for renewable energy sources like hydrogen in the automotive sector and in other areas.
4. Hydrogen technology is said to have enormous potential. What options and opportunities does it offer outside of the automotive sector?
Hydrogen technology plays an important role especially when it comes to the question of the sensible and efficient storage of renewable energy, as it usually is not possible to collect it in a constant way. In Patagonia on the east coast of Argentina, for example, a pilot project has been running since 2006 which has been causing a stir. Not because of the wind turbines, but because of the idea of converting wind energy into hydrogen via sophisticated electrolysis processes and storing this in large quantities under the ground. The operators depend on the expertise of REHAU and our multi-level hybrid piping system which safely transports and stores the hydrogen subterraneously.
5. What problems does the technology face when it comes to introducing commercial and production-ready solutions to the automotive industry market?
In our opinion, the challenges associated with the technology are solvable. What is missing, however, is the necessary infrastructure, which is currently under construction. Some 1000 hydrogen gas stations are needed in Germany alone to allow people to drive the length of the country with hydrogen. Another factor is the relatively high price of the fuel cells, justified in part by the platinum content. For a number of years, experts have been trying to reduce this content and have already started achieving some good results. By 2020, it is anticipated that the platinum content in the fuel cells will have fallen by more than 85 per cent. In the long-term, fuel cells should not require any more platinum than is needed today by the diesel catalytic converter of a similarly powerful car. Naturally, economic efficiency always plays an important role. But with the highly resource-optimized processing of a hydrogen pressure tank, REHAU also offers an ecologically and economically sensible approach. As such, nothing can stand in the way of the hydrogen technology breakthrough.
Picture: With a symbolic press of the button, they inaugurated the new REHAU lightweight construction technical center in Viechtach (from left to right): Helmut Brunner, Bavarian State Minister, Dr. Veit Wagner, Vice President of the REHAU Group, Martin Wippermann, member of the Automotive Management Team, Franz Wittmann, Mayor of Viechtach and Stefan Tetek, Plant Manager at Viechtach 11.