Volvo Can’t Make Up Its Mind, Says It Might Launch Fuel Cell Vehicle In 10 Years Or So


JAN 21 2018 BY MARK KANE 80

Volvo Concept 40.2 profile

Volvo signed-up for electrification and committed to only electrified new models (hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric) to be made from 2019 on, but now that doesn’t mean that hydrogen fuel cells will not be included.


Volvo Cars’ T8 Twin Engine Range – S90, V90, XC60 and XC90 T8 Twin Engine AWD Inscription, Crystal White Pearl

As it turns out, the Swedish company left in reserve a 20 kW hydrogen fuel cell range-extender project that it prefers over the gasoline engine.

“Volvo Group’s research and development company, Powercell, has confirmed it has completed a pre-study with its parent company and is planning a 20Kw hydrogen fuel cell range extender that will be fitted to the brand’s XC90 hybrid and will maintain the battery at its optimum capacity to provide full power at all times.”

There are no plans for introduction yet, but according to the Volvo vice president of sales and marketing Bjorn Annwall, in ten years it can’t be ruled out:

“You should never say never when it comes to technologies,”

“I think fuel cell is interesting but for the next 10 years it’s batteries. But a fuel cell is essentially a liquid battery, so at some point maybe.”

“What’s the right way of packing fuel cells into a package, what’s the right battery management system. There’s still a lot of potential.”

“It’s not very different, you can just replace the batteries with a fuel cells. It’s not like its two different lanes, right? They are similar drive systems,”

“So maybe if we get some breakthrough in fuel cells, maybe it won’t be that hard to incorporate that into the path we are on right now, but I don’t see that happening in the next five years. But you should never say never,”

Most people don’t see hydrogen fuel cells as a liquid battery, but Volvo seems to see it that way…maybe. The automaker has 10 years to come to its senses at least.


Categories: Volvo


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80 Comments on "Volvo Can’t Make Up Its Mind, Says It Might Launch Fuel Cell Vehicle In 10 Years Or So"

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Never put all your eggs in one basket.

True, but also never put your eggs anywhere close to hydrogen.

Powercell has historically not been about compressed hydrogen. They specifically developed technology that can work with a reforming unit running on methanol (a synthetic fuel), ethanol (a bio fuel) or diesel (again a bio fuel). It operates on hydrogen but this is sourced from a fuel. A small ICE enginge is hopeless in terms of efficiency hence the drive towards a fuel cell as a REX.

For those wondering why you would bother, A tank of diesel being filled with a high flow nozel is equivelent of charging at about 15 MW.

Well, hardly anyone hardly ever needs to charge/refuel at the rate of 15 MW once they can charge at home or at work, so it’s fast becoming a moot point. Wireless charging is yet to take off, but it’s coming. And it’ll make fuel refilling at a stink station even more unappealing and inconvenient than it already is. There’s not much doubt that EVs will be able to drive as far as you ever should without a break between charges, and since they are much more efficient they don’t need as much energy replenished. 350 kW will be enough, although it probably won’t stop there (the infrastructure may be cheaper at even higher rates as less land and hardware needs to be used to have the same capacity). Autonomy may change this dynamic, since the AIs presumably won’t need to take breaks to drive at their best. People will probably also go on more trips because of this, as it makes it more comfortable and practical when the travel time can be used for something else (e.g. work, studies, sleep, entertainment), but even so, with 350 kW or more very few people will need more than a few ten minute… Read more »

What is the equivalent charging rate for filling a tender with coal?

I’ll think about it every time I get out of my car in my garage and take 5 secs to plug it in.

Hydrogen: Total waste of Time.
But, CARB is gullible enough to pay for it: Corp. Take the Money.

Not eggs that’s causing Volvo problems in announcing a BEV; I think they waited too long and can’t find any batteries.

If a fuel cell weighs and costs (to build and run) less than an equivalent ice range extender then why not?

How many times do we have to point out the obvious? The problem isn’t the fuel cell; the problem is the compressed hydrogen fuel used to power it.

Now, if they’re talking about marrying a fuel cell with an onboard reformer so that practical fuels can be used, then that has some future potential. That might actually be able to compete with gasmobiles, but it certainly won’t be able to compete economically with the BEV tech we’ll have 10 years from now.


Yes, but there are ways of harvesting hydrogen directly from ethanol. Right now that technology is not mature but in 10 years, who knows. Ten years ago everyone was saying that batteries will never have the energy density to be competitive with internal combustion engines.

Hydrogen is explosive.
And will be made by converting methane to hydrogen.
Meaning: Will always be more expensive than Methane or Electric.
-Uneconomic. Will Never be the main choice.

Isn’t Volvo a Chinese company now ?

No, Volvo Cars is and has always been a Swedish company.

But that Swedish company has had a US owner and now the company that owns the company that owns the majority of Volvo Cars is Chinese.

Tomatoes, tomawtoes.

That’s like saying that Chrysler is an American company. Nope. It’s Italian.

That’s also true.

Yea, Detroit has been reduced to the Big Two Point Five.

There is a big difference between a company and its owner.

Chrysler is a US company. Owned by and Italian company. That is owned by a dutch holding company.

How about Tesla. Is that an international company and not a US one since the owners are from all over the world?

I own some Tesla.
I’m American.
Therefore: Tesla is American.

Whereever the final decision to sell is made, that’s their nationality…FCA is Italian. Volvo is Chinese. Ford is American.

Yea , Ford bought it , Ran Into the Ground & then sold it for Pennies on the Dollar….LMAO..Just Like Jaguar & others..

You’re actually pretty dumb about cars. Stick to the Tesla cheerleading and try not to comment on things that are automotive. Lesson 1- Ford bought Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover at a time when they were so run into the ground they had to dig them out with a shovel. Lesson 2- They spent loads of money on these brands and revived their value. Not to everyone’s satisfaction, bit to the point where they actually did have a future and dealerships were spread across the country and he world. These brands actually became an option, rather than a joke. Lesson 3- Because of their hard work and money spent on Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover, they were actually able to SELL these brands during the Great Recession as they were well other way to a recovery and save themselves from a government bail out. Lesson 4- Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover exist today ONLY because of the work Ford did. Their current owners were able to buy companies pennies on the dollar that had already been reformed to modern times and had an awesome game plan for the future already planned. It is this plan we see driving around today.… Read more »
Volvo cars was making money when they sold the company to Ford. Volvo sold the car division to Ford, to generate enough cash to buy Scania (trucks/buses). Then AFTER the sale, the EU said no to the deal. It would make Volvo truck to dominant in the market.. So I’m sure Volvo was “happy” with that ruling. Later VW bought most of the share in Scania, and they owns MAN too. The sale to Ford had two reasons. They were developing the XC90 and other new models, that cost a lot of money. They had to create their own platforms (huge expence), and would have to sell more cars to cover the expence – to keep a healthy profit margin. They felt it would be better for business to use the money to buy Scania – in a market they had more profit from, and could get huge synergy effects from. Cut costs, streamline production and so on. I think they should have invested and kept the car division, since they’ve been making money all the time. They could have increased volume by partnering with a Chinese company, and produce cars in China too. The Chinese company have made good… Read more »

It’s a Chinese company, the same way that Chrysler is an Italian company and Jaguar-Landrover is an Indian company.

I believe that you are thinking of Saab. It is now NEVS

GM owned Saab ., For owned Jaguar & Volvo…for sure amongst others that they ran into the ground & lost their shirt over.

10 years! That means they have given up on Hydrogen but cannot admit it.

They have not given up on hydrogen. They were never interested in hydrogen to begin with.

What they are saying now is that it’s not totally impossible that maybe in the future fuel cells might work as range extenders to electric cars as a part of the solution.
Possible for a time when ICEs are banned even as range extenders running on renewable fuel.

At the Frankfurt Auto Show in September 2017 Mercedes Benz had presented the Plug-In Hybrid GLC F-Cell.

It’s got a 13.8 kWh battery pack, and it’s got two tanks in which it can hold 4.4 kg Hydrogen.

Total range is almost 500 km (NEDC).

The Mercedes Benz Plug-In Hybrid GLC F-Cell will go into production.

Volvo is not the first to produce such a vehicle.

Unfortunately true, a small number of people will buy these cars, generally wealthy who do not care about the cost of fuel. The German taxpayers will pay a fortune for the H2 distribution infrastructure that will get used for the next 5 years. After that nobody will see value in H2 as it will always be twice as expensive as electricity and charging for BEVs will be acceptable. In 10 years you won’t be able to give an FCV away.

A hydrogen fuel cell IS a battery. Hydrogen and Lithium are both similar elements in the periodic table. They are in the same column. Hydrogen is just a lot lighter and weighs far less than Lithium for offering the same number of excess electrons.


Hydrogen and lithium are not particularly similar. Hydrogen is not similar to anything else, so where you stick it in the periodic table doesn’t matter.

Yeah, because I’m constantly leaking Lithium out of my Tesla, and it produces H2O out of some kind of tailpipe, just like a Hydrogen vehicle.


They are both electrically-driven, and that’s where the similarities end.

You FCV proponents can’t win on engineering and sales, so you try to confuse the public by calling your H2 cars “EVs.”

Whatever you want to call it, it isn’t a battery, and it will never be viable.

“A hydrogen fuel cell IS a battery.”

Not even remotely.

Secondary (rechargeable) battery cells merely store energy and then discharge that stored energy; they don’t generate energy the way fuel cells do.

Contrariwise, a fuel cell uses slow combustion to generate energy, and requires oxygen to operate. It’s much closer in operation to an ICEngine than it is to a pack of battery cells.

“Hydrogen and Lithium are both similar elements in the periodic table.”

…which is a fact is utterly irrelevant to the subject under discussion.

The California government says the following:

“Each fuel cell is an anode, a cathode and a proton exchange membrane sandwiched in between. Hydrogen, from a tank onboard the vehicle, enters into the anode side of the fuel cell. Oxygen, pulled from the air, enters the cathode side. As the hydrogen molecule encounters the membrane, a catalyst forces it to split into electron and proton. The proton moves through the fuel cell stack and the electron follows an external circuit, delivering current to the electric motor and other vehicle components. At the cathode side, the proton and electron join again, and then combine with oxygen to form the vehicle’s only tailpipe emission, water.”

Hmmm . . . Anode . . . Cathode . . . Circuit . . . Current . . . Sounds like a battery to me.

Please do explain what kind of battery burns (or oxidizes) the lithium to produce energy. I guess I missed that when learning how batteries work. 🙄 A FCEV is driven by electric motors, powered by a fuel cell. A li-ion BEV is driven by electric motors, powered by a battery pack. That’s about they only way they are similar, aside from the similarity that all passenger cars share. * * * * * When wanting to learn about science and technology, a website operated for the benefit of politicians is not the first place I go. Perhaps it’s different for you, AnonyMouse? For example, if I wanted to know how fuel cells are both similar to ICEngines in many important ways, but different in others, I might look at the following abstract: In this chapter, the thermodynamic performance of fuel cells is analyzed, energy conversion efficiency of fuel cells and heat engines is studied and compared, and misconceptions about fuel cell efficiency clarified. It is shown that both fuel cells and heat engines have the same maximum theoretical efficiency, which is equivalent to the Carnot efficiency, when operating on the same fuel and oxidant. However, fuel cells are free from… Read more »

> “please explain what kind of battery…”

Lithium-air. And hydrogen fuel cell.

(Just for the record, I consider hydrogen cars idiotic as long as we don’t have fusion power, or massively more carbon-free energy than we need. But I think he is absolutely right. You’re just playing your usual knee-jerk game.)


Now you’re confusing things. Lithium-air fuel cells are just that: Fuel cells. Calling them “batteries” is unfortunately a common mistake, and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how batteries work.

Batteries don’t involve oxidation and don’t require oxygen to operate. Fuel cells — including lithium-air fuel cells — do.

“But I think he is absolutely right. You’re just playing your usual knee-jerk game.”

If you’d ever stop bloviating and actually pay attention when someone takes the time and effort to point out some of the many mistakes you make when prattling on about a subject you don’t really understand, instead of reacting defensively in a knee-jerk fashion, you might actually learn something, Terawatt.

Or to put it more succinctly: Grow up!

Both batteries and fuel cells require a chemical reaction to transfer electrons. There are battery chemistries that operate on the principle of oxidation although none of them are easily reversible.

Combustion engines generate their power from the volume change of rapidly heating a gas to push a piston. That does not occur in a fuel cell.

For all intents and purposes a fuel cell is a no rechargeable battery.

Pushmi-Pullyu writes: “a fuel cell uses slow combustion to generate energy, and requires oxygen to operate. It’s much closer in operation to an ICEngine than it is to a pack of battery cells.”

Clearly you have no idea how a fuel cell works. There is no combustion. What else do you not know about the topic? It’s ironic that you use the term “fool cell” to describe something you know nothing about. Foolish, even.


I see I have overestimated the intelligence of at least one member of my reading audience.

I used the term “combustion” rather loosely, to make a point about the similarity of fuel cells to the internal combustion engine. You could say I used the word “combustion” more as a metaphor than a precise technical term.

Let me dumb that down to something which hopefully you can understand: Fuel cells burn hydrogen; they just do it rather slowly — i.e. slow oxidation rather than rapid oxidation.

As far as you thinking you understand the subject better than I do… well, thank you for that excellent example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect in operation. 😉

Sorry if you’re confused by the inconsistency in terminology, but…

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fuel cells have a fuel tank, fuel lines, and need refueling. There is a reaction chamber. It looks like the various metal-air batteries, such as iron air, oxidize to discharge, and um… de-oxidize to recharge. That’s where I’d say the main difference is: You cannot recharge a hydrogen fuel cell. Regenerative braking isn’t going to take ambient water in the air and produce hydrogen again. You go a mile on a H2 FCEV, you’ve used up your fuel a little, and there’s no way to get it back without creating more hydrogen. In order to have regenerative braking on a H2 FCEV, you need a battery. At some point, the mass, complexity, and serviceability has to come into ROI and cost of manufacturing, if it hasn’t already. Let’s just pretend Hydrogen distribution is already as accessible as electrical outlets. Regenerative braking significantly extends the service life of brake pads and it also, per mile, reduces what I will call road pollution: grime from vehicles. To not include it in a H2 FCEV is a waste. However, once that’s in there, and the associated battery, then it becomes “what’s the Hydrogen system for, longer range?” Right now, I see Hydrogen as… Read more »

Good for them. In ten years FCVs will be a dead issue. It’s an expensive boondoggle and Volvo is right not to waste money on it.

Well it would be better if we only have BEVs in 10 years, but a Fuel Cell Hybrid is allways better than an ICE hybrid

There is no contradiction. Fuel cells vehicles are electric vehicles. They just store the energy in a different way.

It’s not “contradiction”, it’s confusion. Rather than relying on the name “fuel cell”, FCV proponents want to pretend to get technical and call their cars “EVs.”

All this generates is confusion among the general public who has no idea what you are talking about when you call an H2 powered car an “EV.”

No, the confusion comes when the media and some EV advocates use the terms “EV” and “electric car” as if those terms refer only to BEVs.

If they would use proper terms, such as BEVs and PHEVs and even FCEVs, then there wouldn’t be any confusion, so long as they defined the terms for the uninitiated. Properly, the term “EV” includes all of the above.

So silly.

All modern cars have starters and radios. Lumping everything which moves electrons around under the hood in the EV name just makes the name meaningless.

Seriously, that’s your argument?


Neither Gen 1 nor Gen 2 volts, nor the ELR have any separate electric starter motor driven ring gears with an intermittently connected pinion gear operated by a Solenoid as almost all ICE vehicles have.

ALthough they usually have a radio of some sort.

An electric vehicle is a vehicle that is propelled by an electric motor. Where the electricity comes from doesn’t matter. It can come from a battery (BEV), a fuel cell (FCEV) or from a generator run by gasoline (HEV) or a combination of those.

10 years? What’s that saying about “Refusing to make a decision is making a decision?”

If they wait that long, then surely (fingers crossed) nobody will still be trying to promote the “hydrogen economy” hoax, and hopefully most of the H2 filling stations will have been abandoned. Even Big Oil shills can only keep up the pretense so long!

Even a fuel cell vehicle is a electric vehicle since its powered by motor with no ICE.

But the fuel source is hydrogen with fuel cell acting as battery.
But a FEV will definitely have a small battery of at least 1.5 KWh to capture the regenerative energy which can boost the vehicle’s range by 40 – 50 % which saves the precious amount of hydrogen in every trip.

So its good to have a FEV, but the big question is if the battery price goes below $100 / KWh, how can the FEV compete.

Don Zenga:
Price below $100/kWh doesn’t mean anything for most of the world population that can’t charge at home and at acceptable cost.

$100/kWh*100 kWh = $10,000 just for cells to get range half of regular hybrid. Mass market car ICE drivetrain is much cheaper. Plus you need to make pack out of cells, add power electronics, charger, electric motor, and you have at least $5,000-$10,000 premium over regular hybrid that has double the range and similar pre-tax fuel cost. BEV may compete and get market share with government help and solid state batteries next decade just because it allows to outsource emissions out of city and maybe out of the country, but it will not be easy competition and no way it is going to replace most of the cheap gas cars within 10-20 years.

~100 kW automotive fuel cell system + tanks is around $10,000 already at 10,000/year production. It will go down with further technology improvements and higher production rates.

If batteries are below $100/kWh it’s going to mean radical changes in electricity generation and distribution and it will become _much_ eaiser to charge at home anywhere in the world.

$100 kWh/h cells don’t change much in electricity generation except tropical islands. January is good month to notice it if you are not somewhere in the far South.

Gas storage is still under $1/kWh. People living on 10th floor still find extension cords a bit short to reach street parked car.

You are so generous about battery size. What is the need for 100 KWh battery.

With 40 KWh, upcoming Nissan Leaf could go 150 miles which means 80 KWh is enough for 300 miles / 480 km.

Typical vehicle in a developing world is much lighter overall and may weigh only 2/3 the weight of Leaf and also much slower, so 55 KWh is more than enough and that’s $5,500. Reduce $2,000 for the difference between cheaper motor with 1 speed tranny and the expensive engine with 6 speed tranny and the net difference is just $3,500. This can be recovered from the cheaper electricity.

And it reduces the pollution and foreign oil too.

Don Zenga, Smaller battery certainly reduces pollution and that is how battery cars were supposed to help environment in the first place. But looking at example of Leaf, I don’t see mass market accepting it. Even in countries that have dense DC charger network. I had much higher hopes in around 2010 when Nissan was announcing its own mega-giga-turbo battery factory and upcoming mass production. People found limited range too restrictive. They like electric drivetrain, yes, but that is all. Nissan may start selling E-Power drivetrain option in the US for that reason – but it is just series hybrid. Now if you talk developing world, or even developed world outside North America, yes, typical vehicle is smaller and lighter. But it also may be cheaper and driven maybe half of the American mileage. So the margins are much thinner too, and demand for range is not necessary less. People living in cities in Europe or Japan may use well developed public transit for commuting (think subway or trams), but still need cars for long weekend or vacation trips. They have real winter too. Electricity may be double US average unless you are in country powered by cheap coal. Pre-tax… Read more »

“. . . how can the FEV compete.”

Hyundai says that hydrogen FCVs will be cheaper than BEVs by 2030.

“. . . the VP of Hyundai’s eco technology centre, Kisang Lee, told Wheels hydrogen remains the most viable fuel source for the future due to its long range, zero emissions and fast refuelling times.”

“‘The ultimate goal in the eco-friendly vehicle is hydrogen,’ said Lee. ‘We are doing pure electric vehicles, but we are prepared for hydrogen to be the next future. Around 2030 the system cost of hydrogen can be more comfortable for pure electric vehicles.’”

How about the fuel? When will H be cheaper than electricity? When will it be more efficient?

H2 is already cheaper than electricity in places like San Diego, where marginal residential rate shot to over $0.50/kWh from New Year. That is over $16 per gasoline gallon equivalent.

Once H2 stations will reach scale and capacity, you will see much lower prices. Production is already cheap enough and efficient enough. Even if you source it from natural gas, steam reforming is twice as much as efficient process than burning the same gas for electricity. And CO2 from steam reforming is concentrated unlike from gas turbine, and so can be stored back underground, and it is done in practice thanks minimal DOE funding.

“That is over $16 per gasoline gallon equivalent.”
That would be the equivalent of $4.50 gas for a 30mpg car (which is way above average). Do you routinely drive around for hours to find the most expensive gas station? No one charges at 50c…even in SD, you can go on a ev plan and will be 22c….and let’s not forget SD is the worst extreme case not the norm.

“. . . how can the FEV compete.”

“Hyundai says that hydrogen FCVs will be cheaper than BEVs by 2030.”

What part of “It’s not the fool cell car that’s the problem, it’s the fuel” do you not understand?

At $14-16/kg for (non-subsidized) dispensed hydrogen at a H2 station, nobody is gonna save money by driving a fool cell car, unless someone else is paying a lot of money to subsidize a low price for the hydrogen!

Yes, PHEVs have a place right now as long as battery prices average over $200/kWh. 10 years from now? 2028 and later? BEVs will dominate and fool cells will seem like a distant memory to all but a handful of true believers in California and Japan.

Cult mentality doesn’t allow any alternative ways to design things. There is one and the only one True Way, as told by Supreme Leader EM! True disciples must follow the leader unconditionally.

Trying to divert and involve Tesla into this will not help you prove your point. It has nothing to do with them. What was your point again?

With cheap and abundant electricity coming soon enough, the efficiency argument in favour of batteries becomes moot. Why would you want a heavy battery.

I didn’t read your full post but I would just point out that electric cars existed a long time before 1931.

Tesla did a lot of things but he never cracked his final challenge delivering power remotely through transmission.

I think that whether fuel cell vehicles becomes a thing depends not so much on the vehicle but on society itself. If there ever will be a “hydrogen economy” it makes sense to run cars on hydrogen as well. Sure hydrogen is more expensive to create than charging a battery but on the other hand the battery cost more to produce. The total cost of ownership might not be so different in the end, maybe even lower than a battery car.

Another Euro point of view
I am often the first to say that TODAY EVs are still not meeting the conditions for mass market adoption (mainly because of costs but also lack of true widespread super fast chargers network) however time will fix those issues even if it should take 10 years. Thus I would say time plays against fuel cells as I don’t really see a way to produce and distribute H2 cheaply. Also I wouldn’t want H2 produced from fossil fuel as it seems partly the case now. Now I understand that the issue with renewable energies is storage, so if in the future we could find a way to cheaply make H2 using excess of renewable energy (solar & wind) and use it as a range extender on EVs, why not ? I do not believe on the other hand that fuel cells cars using H2 are dangerous. I mean Toyota which is super conservative on the technologies it uses (did not want to use Li-ion batteries for a long time because of safety concerns) would not have invested in fuel cells if safety was a concern. I believe Musk had reservation about safety of storing H2 in a car but as… Read more »

Wow, these forums are really, really anti hydrogen!

Many on here have PV to go with their EVs so they know the true meaning of free fuel. HEVs are a very hard sell to them, it will never happen

Shocking that someone in Volvo is so ignorant to believe that a battery vehicle configuration can easily be converted to fuel cell or vice versa. Gads! Surely there is a misquote(?)

When something seems really shocking, more often than not, there’s a gap in one’s knowledge. I’d imagine Volvo knows what it’s doing.

Another Euro point of view

+1, of course. People are so amazingly clever on the internet, I wonder where they all are in real life.

The fool cell stays the never fulfilling promise of the ICE car makers for a clean future that it has always been.
In 10 years it will be as stone-dead as it is today. It’s passed on. It is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker. This is a late fool cell. It’s a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. It’s pushing up daisies. It’s rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-fool cell.

Fool cell is the wrong tree to bark on. It’s good that Volvo has not started making any fool cell cars yet.
Hydrogen is not free, you need electricity or fossil fuel to get hydrogen. If you use hydrogen from electrolysis, you get about 1.2 miles from 1kwh of electricity (using Honda Clarity’s official numbers), while in most cases you can get more than 3 miles from a plugin car.