We spend 60 seconds with Professor Helmut List, CEO and Chairman at AVL
What specific activities related to hydrogen is your company currently pursuing?
In addition to our engineering, testing and simulation solutions, AVL has built up an extensive portfolio of fuel cell technology for more than two decades across multiple technologies (e.g. PEM, SOFC). We have over 300 global fuel cell experts working at our headquarters and testing facilities around the world. More recently, AVL has experienced a massive acceleration of interest and progress in fuel cell activities. This has not only brought strong growth across multiple applications but has also catapulted fuel cells into mainstream mobility solutions across passenger cars and commercial vehicles. Today AVL is involved in roughly 50 fuel cell development projects together with various leading global players from the automotive, power-generation, marine and locomotive sectors.
To elevate fuel cell technology development even further, and to be able to support our customers in different segments, we are continuing to invest in building Europe´s most advanced fuel cell laboratory in Graz, Austria. Our goal is to significantly increase the number and capacity of our fuel cell testbeds, including those focused on heavy-duty truck applications (400kW). We have also partnered with and became a shareholder in Greenlight Innovation, a global leader in hydrogen fuel cell testing in Vancouver, Canada. This investment enables us to introduce advanced testing solutions for entire fuel cell powertrains even quicker, which will allow vehicle manufacturers and suppliers to meet the shift from research toward production-driven development.
Are there any inspiring or exciting hydrogen related projects that you are involved in, and would like to tell us about?
To date, AVL has conducted more than 200 fuel cell research and commercial projects in-house, as well as with academic and industrial partners. As part of an extensive internal R&D program, we recently introduced a fuel cell concept vehicle based on a fuel cell plug-in powertrain developed by AVL. In a further step, this powertrain will now be developed specifically for a commercial vehicle platform for buses, LD, MD & HD. AVL is also involved in a major fuel cell system development project that will start in China next year. With these steps, AVL aspires to contribute to the rise of a complete hydrogen ecosystem for new mobility and energy solutions.
At the moment, AVL is working on several exciting mobility solutions from passenger cars, commercial vehicles, submarine and locomotive, stationary power generation and other applications, covering cell aspects, stack, BoP, system, software and diagnostics and functional development for the application. These solutions are already hinting at the exciting future the market will see in the upcoming years.
Can you share any hydrogen related milestones that your company has recently accomplished or is actively pursuing?
AVL has been active in the field of fuel cells for powertrains, portable and stationary power generators, and hydrogen generation by electrolysis since 2002 and has built up a strong IP position and a comprehensive portfolio of solutions. Last year, AVL opened a research and development center dedicated to fuel cell technology in Vancouver as a subsidiary of AVL. To elevate fuel cell technology development even further, and to be able to support our customers in different segments, we are continuing to invest in building one of Europe´s most advanced fuel cell laboratories in Graz, Austria. As mentioned before a further key milestone in AVL fuel cell development is the fuel cell plug-in technology demonstrator vehicle, which has been recently showcased by AVL at the Vienna Motor Symposium. This vehicle implements innovative solutions for next generation vehicles, such as a simplified fuel cell system architecture and innovative diagnostics-based control algorithms, to extend the lifetime of fuel cells.
Will you be attending or participating in any hydrogen related events in the next few months that that we should be aware of?
AVL recently sponsored and exhibited at the Mission Innovation (MI) at the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) in Vancouver, Hannover Fair (Germany), the FC EXPO in Tokyo and at the Fuel Cell Conference f-cell + HFC in Vancouver. We held keynote speeches at hydrogen-relevant conferences such as IPHE in Vienna (Austria), the World New Energy Vehicle Congress (WNEVC) and FCVC (Fuel Cell Vehicle Congress, Rugao, China) to name a few.
Fuel cell powertrain solutions were also the focus of our “Engine & Environment” conference in June this year, attended by major global vehicle manufacturers. We are also planning to bring fuel cell topics to the Automotive Testing Expo,
Have you noticed any trends in the way hydrogen energy is being used in the regions where you operate? Where do you see potential for greater hydrogen use and integration into existing systems?
We strongly believe in a much broader use of hydrogen as a major energy carrier to transform our energy system towards renewable resources such as wind and solar. We see many of these activities and discussions, e.g. the development of national hydrogen strategies in Germany, Austria and several other countries. AVL plays a very active role as we were also involved in the development of the Austrian National Hydrogen Strategy. In particular, we focus our research on next generation high-temperature electrolysis (SOEC) for the highly efficient production of hydrogen and hydrogen derivatives.
We also see an increasing number of hydrogen filling stations worldwide as an indicator of market acceptance and growth.
When it comes to innovation, where do you look for motivation/inspiration?
AVL’s success is based on the commitment, competence and determination of all its employees. The basic prerequisite for this is an environment that promotes innovation as well as creative thinking and acting – AVL offers this environment as the “home of innovation.” As part of a global team, employees can explore new and unconventional paths and – even if they rely on their intuition – push themselves to the limits of physics.
AVL places considerable emphasis on research to advance the development of IP and cooperates closely with universities and research institutions.
In close cooperation with our customers, we strive to integrate and expand the fuel cell into SOP. We pursue ambitious goals for the next generation of fuel cell solutions that are inspiring enough to drive new ideas and solutions.
What most excites you about the potential for hydrogen use globally?
There is enormous potential for further innovation that makes fuel cell technology competitive in all aspects (e.g. performance, cost durability, range), especially when compared to other power-storage and conversion technologies for different applications. The fuel cell is a viable option in e-mobility that complements battery-electric vehicles offering significant advantages in larger and heavier vehicles and will help to achieve a broad decarbonization of transport segments (especially in the commercial vehicle segment). The usage of hydrogen beyond the automobile is manifold and is key to achieve the Paris climate change agreement targets. We also see the potential of hydrogen to become a key element driving the large-scale storage of renewable energy towards sustainable and renewable resources.
How has policy/regulation helped support the efforts you are pursuing in the energy space? In an ideal world, what would you like to see happen next?
Continuous research funding enables innovations that reduce costs and increase durability. Holistic and application-oriented solutions will be achieved through cooperative research along the entire value chain.
Incentives are needed for large fleet operators (taxis, community vehicles, buses, and commercial vehicles) to accelerate volume absorption (support for fuel cell solutions beyond the scale-up hurdle). Another possibility would be to add costs to CO2 and CO2-trading in order to have a steering effect on consumer and industry decisions. To improve the balance between BEVs, ICE-based vehicles and FCEVs, the technological agnostic regulation of the sustainability of mobility would be desirable. Innovative public-private partnership models for building an initial infrastructure and more examples of holistic hydrogen economic solutions would be conceivable.
Why did you make the decision to join the Hydrogen Council? What value do you see in this initiative and your role as a member?
The Hydrogen Council is the only worldwide initiative with global industry players committed to aligning, facilitating and accelerating all required activities regarding hydrogen and fuel cells. As an innovative industry leader, AVL has been at the forefront of championing and promoting the green, affordable and safe use of hydrogen in transport and several key industrial applications, like energy and heating. In AVL, the Hydrogen Council will have a strategic partner in support of the Council´s vision regarding the essential role of hydrogen technologies in the global energy transition.
If you have been a part of the Council for some time now, what has been the highlight of your Hydrogen Council membership so far (most enjoyed moment, influential initiative, most successful activity etc.)?
We are proud to be part of this community and look forward to growing our connections and exchanges with all members.