Juergen Schrempp calls engineers to action worldwide * Securing future energy supplies is a pressing problem for mankind

In just two years, DaimlerChrysler will become the world's first automaker to launch fuel cell vehicles on the market. That is the scheduled delivery date for new city buses equipped with fuel cell drives. In the same year, DaimlerChrysler's plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama will start drawing power from a stationary fuel cell manufactured by the company's subsidiary MTU Friedrichshafen. And the first fuel cell passenger cars will be ready to roll another two years after that. These announcements were made by Juergen E. Schrempp, chairman of the DaimlerChrysler Board of Management, at World Engineers Day in Hanover on June 19, 2000.

Schrempp views the fuel cell as the most promising of all alternative drive systems.

"The fuel cell boasts efficiency levels greater than those offered by the combustion engine. It can be used in both mobile and stationary applications, can run on regenerative fuels and has the potential to become the drive of the future," he said. The company intends to invest around one billion dollars in the development of this drive between now and 2004.

In Schrempp's opinion, the energy issue is one of the central challenges facing humanity, for the simple reason that energy offers the chance of simultaneously providing the solution to other problems. As examples, he cited water, adequate quantities of which can be produced by desalination of sea water (but only through the input of energy), as well as hunger and protection of the environment and the climate.

Schrempp quoted neutral observers, who have predicted a growing demand for fossil fuels in the coming years, leading to continued increases in the price of oil. This would give rise to the danger that energy could become a luxury item for the prosperous, deepening the division between rich and poor in the world.

Schrempp called on the roughly 3,300 participants at World Engineers Day in Hanover and on engineers around the globe to organize themselves using the Internet. In this way, he said, they would be able to work on securing future supplies of energy without regard to national boundaries. In his speech, Schrempp also dealt extensively with the current discussion, particularly in the U.S., on the dangers inherent in technological progress. One of the leading promoters of this discussion is Bill Joy, chief engineer of the U.S. software company Sun Microsystems.

Schrempp pointed out that the estimation of future developments should not be conducted on the basis of what will happen, but on the basis of what can happen. "The decisive factor is that one is well prepared and able to react quickly to events," he said. He distanced himself from the "two-camp theory" as represented by the dispute between euphoric optimists and apocalyptic pessimists. Schrempp categorically pointed to the ability of human beings and the ethically guided will of engineers to tackle the problems of the coming decades in a manner that benefits human beings and the environment.