Connected – Autonomous – Emission-Free

Handshake Dobrindt - Gang
Handshake Dobrindt – Gang

Many prominent figures from politics and business showed up to the H2Mobility conference in Berlin, Germany, in order to re-assure each other of the promises they had already made. Alexander Dobrindt kicked off the event held on the premises of his government department, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), before the Chinese transportation minister, Wan Gang, addressed the audience. Several company heads followed up with their own speeches touting the advancements they had made in developing hydrogen technology. Although there was hardly anything new to report, they all agreed that electric transportation was the technology of the future.

During the conference, subtitled “Electric Transportation by Fuel Cell,” minister Dobrindt officially announced his new “Strategy for emission-free transportation by hydrogen.” He went on to explain that his approach was based on three pillars: “We have made more investments than ever before, are in the process of establishing a charging point infrastructure for nationwide coverage, and have been specifically promoting innovative ideas.”

The “investments“ to which he referred consist of EUR 161 million, which the BMVI has allocated to H2 transportation between 2016 and 2018 and which state secretary Rainer Bomba had already announced in Berlin on June 1, 2015, during the general assembly of the National Innovation Program Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NIP). By “nationwide coverage,” he was alluding to the up to 400 hydrogen filling stations, which should be installed in Germany by 2023. Fifty of them were supposed to be completed until the end of 2015, but only 20 of them have been in operation to date. In this context, he also spoke of “EUR 350 million to be allocated.” Whether this second figure includes the already budgeted EUR 161 million was not immediately clear.

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German-Chinese cooperation

Of great importance to the conference was the presence of China’s transportation minister Gang, who agreed with Dobrindt on intensifying the German-Chinese cooperation. For example, representatives from the National Organization Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NOW) and the China Automotive Technology and Research Center signed a declaration of intent about strengthening their cooperation in the field of innovative engine technologies and infrastructure.

A central topic, the merging of digitalization and electric transport, was subsequently mentioned by minister Gang: He said during his speech that …

Gang also said that the People’s Republic had manufactured close to …

Wan-Gang-IMG_4595Likewise, China‘s production of renewable energies is growing rapidly: The wind power installed across the country is currently at 129 GW (33 GW added in 2016). By 2020, it is said to increase to 200 GW of wind and 150 GW of PV power.

Reinventing the automobile

The carmaker representatives, too, re-affirmed their commitment to electric transportation. First and foremost it was …

2016: The transitional year

Bernd Eulitz, executive board member at Linde, conceded in his speech that there was “still a lot of room for improvement.” But he also added: “…

BMW had its say, too. Gerd Schuster, …

Klaus Bonhoff, CEO of NOW, concluded …

“As simple as it is to continue research and development, it is much harder to find the appropriate instruments for market deployment.” (See Bonhoff interview coming soon.)

Confusion abounds

Several issues surrounding the conference caused a great deal of confusion:

The H2Mobility Conference is in no way associated with H2 MOBILITY Germany. Although someone from the company attended the 2015 edition, the event was organized by the BMVI. It is unknown why the ministry didn’t simply choose another title (e. g. H2 Transportation Conference) to avoid any such confusion.

The German minister for transportation, Alexander Dobrindt, seems to enjoy surrounding himself with high-ranking company representatives. At least, his events are usually attended only by board members of corporations. For example, Frank Sreball, who was “only” president of H2 MOBILITY at the time of the conference, was not able to present his joint venture at the conference. Oliver Bishop, General Manager of Shell Hydrogen, addressed the participants instead.

It was almost like a déjà vu of the events in October 2015, when H2 MOBILITY had officially been announced: The participating company heads met with Dobrindt for a photo-op. Sreball, however, was not invited, although he was in charge of the start-up. He has meanwhile been replaced by Nikolas Iwan (see H2 MOBILITY Under New Leadership).

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