FRANKFURT Electric batteries have won a slight edge over hydrogen fuel cells in their quest for future dominance in the car industry, Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche told a German weekly.
Daimler is cooperating with partners in both areas and Zetsche said it was still unclear which of the two competing technologies would be more successful in playing a leading role in the sector.
"But one has to recognize: batteries have become more attractive in recent years. It has become more likely that they could prevail," Zetsche told Euro am Sonntag in an interview, adding that batteries had shown progress in two key areas - range and charging time.
"Cars with electric driving ranges of 500 kilometers and fast charging times of 20 minutes are within reach," he said.
Meanwhile, the biggest challenge with regard to fuel cells - the affordable and wide distribution of hydrogen - had not been solved yet, Zetsche said.
He also put pressure on the German government to do more to ensure its declared goal of having 1 million electric cars in Europe's biggest economy by 2020 is met, but stopped short of calling for subsidies.
"Subsidies could only fulfill a bridging function anyway," he said, adding that they could not be the solution in the medium and long term.
Germany lags markets such as Norway and the Netherlands when it comes to subsidies and providing charging points for electric cars in particular. Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this month met with industry executives to find a solution.
"I'm just saying: If everything stays the way it is now, you have to bid farewell to the target of putting 1 million electric cars on Germany's roads by 2020," Zetsche said.
(Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Digby Lidstone)