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University of Applied Sciences Munich | Hydro2Motion team
Marina Seeger (20), automotive engineering student
Robert Kostrzewa (28), mechanical engineering student
Thanks for taking the time for a brief interview! What brought you to the project? What are your tasks? What inspires you?
Robert: I have been on the team since 2012 and have also completed two projects since then. You build, design, see whether it works and you see that you also have to build it yourself – if you’ve made errors, you get annoyed with yourself, and this experience is very instructive in the project. Marina came to us later, really interested. Now she’s here and highly motivated too!
Marina: I started because they presented this project at the university and I thought to myself: “That’s really exciting.” Before university, I did an apprenticeship in mechanics, and I think that one of the most important issues overall today is consumption and sustainability. And that’s what fascinated me about the project. Electric cars are great too, but fuelling or charging them is simply a problem. You wouldn’t get this problem with a hydrogen car. Hydrogen is better in this area, and you can use it everywhere. The Shell Eco Marathon fascinated me, and I decided: “Now you have to do something, and stick with it!” A semester ago, I then took over as team leader.
I also built the wheel rims as we have particular specifications for the contours from Michelin.
You came fifth last year, and you have probably optimised a lot since then, right?
Marina: There was no rule yet last year that you have to steer in front. But we did that already, while many others had not yet. We optimised that further this year. We also optimised the fuel cell; we now have half, as we did not need the full capacity.
Robert: We are also planning an engine with a small output. The problem was always the start-up, as the most power was needed here, but sailing mode requires considerably less. The issue is not speed but distance.
Do you have to change anything in the team? Have you decided that you need more capacity?
Marina: We always need people, especially in electronics and for programming! Of course, there are still people around, but most just want to be involved in one project, and only now and then are there some who stay for longer.
Marina: And it is incredibly rewarding to work in a team. Everything that I learnt at university, I can implement directly here. You don’t get that opportunity in the working environment. You can’t try out as much there.
Good point! Will you also pursue the topic further in your careers?
Marina: That would be cool. Sustainability or hydrogen would definitely interest me later as well.
Robert: I wouldn’t like to commit myself so fully, but I could certainly imagine that. Fuelling with hydrogen is a big issue at the moment. Everyone is working on developments. And it would be interesting to be able to build on what we have learnt. I: What are your chances in the marathon this year?
Marina: Making a prediction is always difficult. We have already tested out things that are better than last year. But a place on the podium would be good.
We were very solid last year. We had four ranked races and achieved consistently good results.
Who is your biggest competitor in a direct comparison?
Robert: The French, but they have already been at it for 25 years.
Marina: They have much more experience anyway.
What’s it like on site? Do you have much communication there with international teams?
Marina: Yes, we have been trying to document that. But we have also realised that we are well positioned. We help each other as well; there is no direct competitive spirit.
Robert: Felix fitted tyres for two other teams last year. So we help each other in any case and don’t just do our own thing.
What do you think would be necessary for hydrogen to be better accepted logistically?
Marina: Filling stations. There is definitely a lack of filling stations.
Robert: People are also afraid of the material. When someone hears hydrogen, their initial reaction is fear that it’s explosive. Petrol is just as dangerous. It’s a question of how you handle it.
From your viewpoint, what is the biggest advantage compared with an electric car?
Marina: No heavy batteries, no charging for 3 hours, even with a range extender it still takes time. There is definitely potential.
Robert: People want to refuel easily. Quick chargers are also being researched. It is still a process; of course car manufacturers are researching and building, but we will have to see how many of them are brought to market.
When do you think humanity will succeed in turning away from petrol?
Marina: I’m afraid only when it runs out. People work better under pressure, and when it runs out, they will be forced to come up with an alternative.
Thanks for the interview and your exciting input!