- For well-known German investor Frank Tellin, hydrogen technology for cars “has no meaning” like that Wirtschaftswoche magazine mentioned.
- The concept wouldn’t be profitable, according to a former “Black Den” juror. He sees the technology of the future in batteries and thermal storage.
- The process of converting heat collected in storage tanks into electricity is more efficient than hydrogen technology. Thus, hydrogen is not an option for road traffic, but is intended for long trips.
Are hydrogen cars the answer to a climate-neutral future? “No,” says investor Frank Tellin. For the German businessman, it is clear that the “technology revolution hoped for by politics and the media” for sustainable transportation cannot be found in hydrogen cars, as such Wirtschaftswoche magazine mentioned in an interview with the investor.
Frank Thelen is one of Germany’s most popular investors. He is the founder of venture capital firm Freigeist, which invests primarily in technology and early-stage design-focused startups. His portfolio includes the successful startup MyTaxi and Wunderlist, and he is currently involved with the air taxi company Lilium. He gained public prominence through his participation as an investor and juror on the Vox “Den of the Lions” program from 2014 to 2020.
In his years as a juror and investor, Frank Tellin came across a number of startup and business ideas. Hardly any other technology idea is as popular as the idea of hydrogen cars. Many politicians see this technology as a potential climate-conscious revolution for traffic – but not Frank Thielen.
After a thorough evaluation by experts inside and outside his immediate environment, he came to the conclusion that this technology would not bring the hoped-for future that everyone wanted. “There will be hope,” he said. In explaining why he didn’t consider the technology sustainable, he referred to Volkswagen chief Herbert Dies, who has also been critical of hydrogen in cars. Concept with production, storage, construction of cars and operation of petrol stations [kann] It just won’t open,” he said. “If I check it correctly, I come to the conclusion: it makes no sense.”
The technologies of the future are batteries
As for Thelen’s opinion and public statement on hydrogen technology, the investor has received criticism from some quarters. But he is still standing. For him, one thing is certain: batteries are the technology of the future when it comes to cars, not hydrogen. Electricity and battery technology has a distinct advantage, especially in terms of supply security. Car grids can become storage systems, but cheap and efficient large storage systems like power units also have a lot of potential, according to the investor. These fluctuations in the power grid can be offset by renewable energies.
Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates have already invested in this type of memory. They participate in the so-called thermal storage systems that heat the salt up to 600 degrees Celsius. Frank Tellin says that converting electricity into heat is very efficient. You will only lose 2% of the energy in the conversion process. Thelen and his team have also invested in a company that can store its energy block, made from recycled pellets, up to 1,300 degrees Celsius. The team is now working on developing special turbines that will convert heat back into electricity with an efficiency of 65 to 70 percent. “You can’t achieve that level of efficiency with hydrogen,” Tellin explained.
He is sure that power blocks and battery technology have a lot of potential for development. They have higher storage densities, more charge cycles, need fewer rare raw materials and are very easy to recycle.
However, and thus Frank Tellin does not rule out at the end of the interview, hydrogen technology is a sustainable idea, at least for air traffic. Because batteries are not an option for ships and long-haul aircraft. “Hydrogen can certainly make sense here, because high energy density is much more important here than production and maintenance costs,” he explained. Off the streets, hydrogen is definitely a technology that needs to be thought of and has potential. According to Frank Tellin, hydrogen technology will find its niche.