Interview with two CEOs: “In 20 years, there will still be a lot of internal combustion engines” – the economy

Mr Bruch, the federal government is making € 9 billion available for hydrogen projects, and as a member of the National Hydrogen Council, you are supporting the funding policy. Is the topic finally gaining strength?
BRUCH: The subject acquires a different dynamic. I worked with hydrogen for 25 years and even then there was the first hype – but it was a lot of hot air. The situation is very different today. Politicians have recognized that hydrogen technology is an important element in managing the transition to energy, but projects are not yet commercially viable for companies and will continue to be so. Therefore, initial state funding is necessary.

And then will current hype become climate-neutral business models?
BRUCH: If the framework conditions are correct, we have better connected application areas and we have the necessary infrastructure. We need international supply chains. And we should focus on markets or application areas that are already quite close to commercialization. This may include certain areas of mobility, such as heavy goods vehicles and the production of electronic fuels.

How important is hydrogen for Siemens Energy today?
BRUCH: That’s one of the areas where we’ve invested the most money in research. The electrolysis itself flows a high two-digit million every year. We must continue to invest until 2025, because before that the boundary conditions will not be such that it is possible to make money with green hydrogen.

Wouldn’t there be a joint project with Porsche and other partners in Chile without eight million from the federal government?

BRUCH: The cost of the project exceeds 30 million euros, but the amount of products in the first phase is too small to cover. The project is excellent because we connect the industry and show that it works to transport renewable energy where it is needed. Funding is essential to get the project above the “pain threshold”.

Christian Bruch is the head of Siemens Energy, a former energy division of Siemens, which the Munich company acquired in September … Photo: Siemens AG

When is Chile profitable?
BRUCH: The plan assumes that approximately 550 million liters of climate-neutral fuel will be produced by 2026. If the boundary conditions are correct by then and there is a demand, it may pay off.

How many wind turbines does Siemens Gamesa have to set up so much green fuel from wind energy after different processes?
BRUCH: If you consider system improvements over the years, we’re talking about just over 700 wind turbines.

Who finances capacity expansion?
BRUCH: In the end, companies that sell fuel are sure to invest, such as large oil and gas companies. If the pilot project has changed to a commercial business model, this should not be the limit.

Mr Blume, Porsche is investing EUR 20 million in the first step. And then?
BLUME: The eFuels pilot plant is an investment in sustainable mobility. It is important that synthetic fuels do not compete with electromobility. Electromobility remains a top priority at Porsche. The best example is the Taycan, our first fully electric sports car. It is very well received by customers. We will deliver approximately 20,000 vehicles this year. In the coming years, we will continue with a consistent electrification strategy.

How does eFuel fit into this strategy?
BLUME: eFuels reasonably complement electromobility. Because even in 20 years, there will still be many internal combustion engines around the world. With eFuels, we could also drive these existing vehicles almost CO2 neutral.

Oliver Blume worked for VW Audi and Seat subsidiaries and for the parent company in Wolfsburg. Since 2015 … Photo: REUTERS

Taycan is sold like sliced ​​bread – why don’t you focus on electric cars now?
BLUME: In the short and medium term, we rely on three propulsion technologies: efficient gasoline engines, powerful hybrids and fully electric sports cars. By 2025, approximately 50 percent of our vehicles will be partially or fully electric. One thing is clear: the electric motor is the fastest way to reduce CO2 emissions in the new vehicle sector. But 70 percent of all vehicles Porsche has ever produced is still on the road. EFuels are a sustainable solution for this.

Is there any experience with synthetic fuels?
BLUME: Yes, we’ve been testing synthetic fuels for a long time. We know exactly what fuel properties our engines need for climate-friendly operation. We are currently testing different variants of synthetic fuel with historical and current 911. With convincing results.

Why will 911 continue to run on fuel rather than electricity in the future?
BLUME: 911 is our icon. It traditionally moves the engine at the rear. The concept vehicle is not designed for electric propulsion. But we are considering a very sporty 911 hybridization, as we know it from motorsport.

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Is all the fuel for the Chilean project intended for Porsche?
BLUME: In the first phase, we will consume the entire amount of around 130,000 liters ourselves. We plan to use eFuels in various areas: These include Motorsport and the Porsche Experience Center, where our customers can test their cars. EFuels would also be an alternative to testing vehicles and initially refueling our production sports cars at the factory.

However, the energy efficiency of eFuels lags significantly behind the energy efficiency of battery-powered vehicles.
BLUME: That’s right at first glance. However, if eFuels are produced in places in the world where there is a surplus of renewable energies, the idea of ​​efficiency loses its unique point of sale. This is the case in the turbulent south of Chile. This is another reason why the eFuels system is being built there and it works with green wind energy.

The Porsche Taycan is the first electric sports car from Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. The success of the sale is even … Photo: dpa

Can eFuels ever displace conventional gasoline?
BLUME: In the next ten years, synthetic fuels could become interesting for a wide market. An attractive price is important. After the start of production, the production of electronic fuels will gradually become cheaper.

Will Porsche buy 550 million liters to be produced there in 2026?
BLUME: We’re not that far yet. First of all, with the lighthouse project, we want to show that this great technology works. If the fuel is competitive, there will be enough buyers.

Mr. Bruch, is Porsche the first carmaker Siemens Energy to work with on hydrogen?
BRUCH: We have already had projects in the mobility sector, but Porsche is taking a pioneering role in the development of new fuels and is therefore a very important partner for us.

BLUME: In addition to e-mobility, we focus on eFuels instead of pure hydrogen for various reasons. On the one hand, transport without cooling and compression is much easier than with pure hydrogen. Another advantage: eFuels can use the existing filling station infrastructure. No fuel cell is required in the vehicle. This saves space and weight. In addition, efficiency is better and performance is comparable to fossil fuels.

BRUCH: This is an important point: We need a number of solutions to various problems. In Germany, relying on the pure hydrogen structure of cars is unreasonable in the foreseeable future. And I say that, even though I was very happy that I drove a hydrogen car during my stay in Linde.

In road freight or inland waterway transport, use should be more likely and meaningful.
BRUCH: This is probably the area that may be the first to operate commercially, especially in cities. In Beijing, for example, we equip a hydrogen filling station with an electrolyzer to deliver buses to the city. And the first hydrogen trains are already on their way in this country. At present, vehicle manufacturers are still limited to a wider use: there are simply not enough trucks, buses or trains that could be powered by a fuel cell.

Mr. Blume, batteries are essential for electric cars. Porsche wants to build a high-performance cell together with Customcells. How is the project going?
BLUME: The battery cells are tomorrow’s combustion chamber. That is why we also participate in cell research. One element: a joint venture between Porsche and Customcells and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. Together, we want to develop cells with high energy and energy density, low internal resistance and complex recyclability.

But it still persists, and bottlenecks are already emerging in the cell market.
BLUME: At the moment, Asian cell manufacturers are still ahead of us. Overall, however, Volkswagen takes this issue very seriously. The Volkswagen Group will invest more than 70 billion euros in electromobility over the next five years. Porsche alone is investing 15 billion euros in electrification and digitization. In addition to bulk cells, we want to develop high-performance cells. With maximum performance, faster charging and greater range. Our 800-volt technology in Taiwan sets the standard here. It charges much faster than any other electric car. It is appropriate that the international jury selected the Taycan as the most innovative car in the world in 2020.

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