The German transportation minister, Andreas Scheuer, was not among those who took a trip to Potsdam, in the state of Brandenburg, to see the opening of the country’s 50th hydrogen fueling station on Sept. 7, 2018. His absence, however, did little to stop those who came from celebrating this particular milestone. The event attracted over 120 people, including Kathrin Schneider, the state minister for infrastructure, and Jann Jakobs, the then-mayor of Potsdam.
It was a long-awaited moment for some, considering the magical number of 50 fueling stations across Germany was supposed to have been reached by the end of 2015. At least, that had been the aim of Peter Ramsauer, the country’s minister in charge of transportation at the time. That it took so long to fulfil the 50-station target was mainly the fault of the ministry itself. Headed by politicians of the Christian Social Union in the past decade, the department missed the opportunity to put automakers’ feet to the fire, allowing their actions to go unchecked. Instead of advancing sustainability, it intervened in Brussels to help dial back the emissions targets proposed by the EU. Then, at the height of the diesel emissions scandal, it shied away from taking corporations to task over their shady practices.
Yet, thanks to H2 Mobility, the past months have seen a remarkable increase in the number of fueling stations. The company’s young team, led by Nikolas Iwan, has been chipping away at many market barriers and sped up the entire process, fueling expectations that the next 50 stations will be completed much sooner. Iwan himself was visibly proud when he said in Potsdam that “in 2017, more hydrogen stations were being built in Germany than in any other country in the world. In 2018, there will be even more.”
Among the attendees at the opening was Bart Biebuyck, the executive director of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking since 2016, as some of the funding for the station had been provided via the EU’s Hydrogen Mobility Europe project, or H2ME for short. Biebuyck said 1,200 fuel cell vehicles were registered in the EU. He also noted that an entire factory to produce fueling stations had opened in Denmark last fall, something that is certain to have a positive impact on the size of the fueling infrastructure over the next years.
EU offers support
The new hydrogen pump installed at the Total-branded gas station on Horstweg, in the southeast of Potsdam, was designed for filling up the tanks of passenger cars at 700 bars. Additionally, the site has been prepared for the installation of a 350-bar pump to refuel buses. The capacity of the present pump is about 40 fill-ups a day.
The chairman of NOW, Klaus Bonhoff, called the opening a “milestone in the history of fueling stations,” adding that the testing stage was over, and efforts should focus on building up a nationwide network instead. He went on to say that the “50th station may have arrived late but not too late.” Later, Biebuyck said that “we will make use of the know-how gained from H2ME to expand the fueling infrastructure in other parts of Europe.”
Brandenburg wants to do more
Kathrin Schneider, Brandenburg’s minister for infrastructure, said in her speech that the opening of the fueling station was “in line with our policy objectives.” Among them was the aim to create more “sustainable modes of transportation.” She underscored that Brandenburg’s government “closely follows the progress of both battery and fuel cell technology” before pointing to another hydrogen-focused project, in the railroad sector. The idea behind that venture was to make fuel cell railcars part of the Heidekrautbahn line, which ran from Berlin to the Schorfheide region in the north. She then remarked that the state government “would be happy to contribute” to the implementation of those kinds of projects.
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