Sunday, May 23, 2021

As The Industry Goes Batteries-or-Bust, Daimler Says Not So Fast

From Bloomberg via Yahoo Finance:

Daimler Disagrees With Tesla and VW’s Batteries-or-Bust View

Daimler AG’s truck chief expects hydrogen-powered big rigs to play an important role in slashing emissions from the transportation sector despite the technological hurdles and skepticism raised by two prominent rivals.

Focusing solely on battery-electric vehicles would be risky because of the scarcity of certain raw materials and challenges grids will have supporting wide-ranging charging networks for trucks and buses, Martin Daum, Daimler Truck’s chief executive officer, said in a phone interview.

“We cannot afford to bank on just one technology to reach the climate goals,” Daum said. “The focus until 2025 will be 100% on battery-electric vehicles. Between 2025 and 2035, we’re going to need both battery-electric and fuel cell vehicles because the massively growing infrastructure requirements require a two-legged approach.”

Fuel cells, which generate electricity from hydrogen and therefore eliminate the need to recharge batteries, have been touted for years as a potential alternative to combustion engines. But high costs and sparse fueling infrastructure have stood in the way of broader adoption and left the technology far behind battery-electric powertrains in the passenger-car market.

Electrifying commercial vehicles is more complex -- they’re larger, heavier and used for everything from deliveries to supermarkets in urban areas to long-haul transport in remote areas. Daimler recently formed a joint venture with rival Volvo AB to jointly develop fuel cell stacks.

Daimler’s Detractors

While prominent industry leaders including Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk and Volkswagen AG’s Herbert Diess have repeatedly criticized fuel cells and argued battery power is the only way forward, Daimler and Volvo aren’t alone in seeing long-term potential....


For a while Herr Doktor Diess was talking so nice about TSLA that I thought Volkswagen was going to either buy Tesla or rip Elon's lungs out. But then Tesla's stock price sort of got away from the folks in Wolfsburg. So they went back to making the Currywurst and plotting world domination in the battery biz. (which was the prime motive of any VW interest in Tesla)


October 2019
"VW CEO corrects TSLA critics: ‘Tesla is not niche. The Model 3 is a large-series (car)’" (TSLA)
It sounds as though VW is about to attack Tesla. First you say something nice, then you turn everything you've got against 'em.
And VW has a lot. Of resources, of engineering, of friends....

September 2020
"Tesla tests the circuits for German energy market push"
....As we noted last year, Elon has to be careful with the differences in business culture as he makes his move in Germany.

He's gotten off on the right foot with Volkswagen and it is always good to have the industrial behemoths at least neutral if not on your side. That will also go a long way toward making nice with the banking establishment which as far as corporate boards go have a lot of power.

And that brings us to employees. He can't treat them as poorly as he does the ones in California. The unions will thwart you at every turn if you don't make nice.
Here's a post from the time Musk announced he was going to Berlin:

November 12, 2020 
Musk Says Tesla's First European Production Plant Will Be In Berlin (TSLA)

This is a bit surprising for a few reasons. First off, Tesla's acquisition of German manufacturing automation specialist  Grohmann Engineering, did not go smoothly, in part due to real cultural differences. Secondly, although Mr. Musk seems to like being near airports (see SpaceX - LAX tunnel) if he was looking for a big chunk of land, the old Tempelhof Airport space is still empty.

Third, although there seems to be a budding bromance between Musk and VW CEO Dr. Diess, it seems that setting up shop is quite the in-your-face challenge to the German auto industry....