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More Investment in Hydrogen Technologies

Five questions to our CEO Philip Nelles about our growth area of hydrogen technologies

Home Media Stories More Investment in Hydrogen Technologies

More Investment in Hydrogen Technologies

We know from President John F. Kennedy that, “When written in Chinese, the word ’crisis’ is composed of two characters – one represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” Over the past 15 months, we have experienced first-hand how this duality plays out in concrete terms. Never has anything brought home more clearly to us the need to transform the German energy industry than the confluence of the energy crisis provoked by the Ukraine war and the climate crisis. In addition to electricity from wind and sun, the industry is focusing on hydrogen as a renewable energy source. It is not surprising that hydrogen technologies are one of ContiTech’s growth areas. We asked our CEO Philip Nelles what contribution our materials expertise can make – and what obstacles still exist today.

Why is hydrogen technology a growth area for ContiTech?


Hydrogen – based technologies are needed in order to decarbonize the economy and thereby achieve the global sustainability goals. This also applies in particular to those countries in which industries with high energy requirements, such as the chemical, steel and cement industries, play a prominent role. In the future, they too must move away from fossil fuels and toward alternative technologies, generating only green electricity or CO2-neutral energy, including hydrogen. 

However, efficient generation, storage and distribution are necessary to achieve the widespread, continuous availability and use of hydrogen. And this is precisely where the growth area for ContiTech lies. We are already working on the relevant hose line systems for service station applications and on innovative surface materials for storage tanks.


How is ContiTech positioning itself to meet the dynamic market developments in the hydrogen context?


With the strategic realignment currently underway at ContiTech, we’re setting a decisive course for offering integrated solutions in the future, especially for the industrial sector. Through the newly created position of Chief Technology Officer and the establishment of technology competence centers, we’re promoting the expansion of our materials capabilities and are able to carry out extensive basic research, particularly in the context of hydrogen and fuel cell technology.

With our new CTO Dr. Michael Hofmann and Dr. Piero Mancinelli as head of the Hydrogen TechCenter, we have a strong team that will drive forward expansion of the hydrogen solution range at ContiTech even more systematically, including a view to the various markets in the EMEA, APAC and Americas regions. Further aspects include the technical expertise of our employees and our competence in transferring existing technologies to new areas of application. Both help us to meet the challenges along the entire hydrogen value chain, from production, transport, storage and distribution through to use in fuel cells.


What particular challenges do you face in developing solutions for hydrogen technologies?


In addition to the special requirements that the medium itself places on our materials – for example, pressure, temperature and permeation resistance – we also have to meet the market challenges. 

Bringing a new technology to market maturity requires high initial investments without knowledge of how the market will ultimately develop. After all, a technology such as fuel cell propulsion or the use of hydrogen in industry initially has to assert itself against other technologies. Despite our customers already showing great interest and the fact that we’re already working with many of them in this area, it will take time before this is actually reflected in sales and business volume. This can only be accelerated with the appropriate political framework conditions and incentives for investment in place.

So you believe we need to be doing more overall to advance hydrogen technology?


Absolutely: Yes! In its European Green Deal, the European Commission has set itself the goal of progressively installing electrolysers with a capacity of at least 40 gigawatts by 2030 to produce 10 million tons of green hydrogen. And a national hydrogen strategy has also been in place in Germany since 2020. But to turn ambition into reality, rapid implementation is required, which is still lacking. This is no big surprise, because from an industrial point of view, investing in hydrogen production is not currently very worthwhile because there is still no pipeline infrastructure through which the energy could be distributed. To build this, it would, for example, be necessary to rethink regulations and speed up approval procedures so that the network infrastructure can be built cost-effectively using the existing gas and electricity networks. Other countries, in contrast, are already a step ahead. Japan, for instance, was one of the first countries to formulate its own strategy for the “hydrogen society,” and specific measures are already being implemented there in pilot projects and international collaborations for the value chain.

What personally fascinates you about hydrogen as a technology for the future?


I’m fascinated by the fact that we even have the technical capabilities necessary to convert today’s fossil fuel-based value chain to renewable, green energy resources in the long term. Because we can capture energy where it’s available in the form of sun or wind, store it, and then bring it to where it’s needed in the form of hydrogen. That’s why hydrogen is an essential factor in successfully decarbonizing energy-intensive industries or in transporting goods from A to B by truck in a climate-neutral manner.

Video: Hydrogen – Hope for heavy duty

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