Until now, the energy supply mechanism in Germany and Europe has taken a centralized form. Massive power plants are responsible for generating electricity and heat which are then distributed via cables or district heating networks. When the boom in solar and wind generation began around 20 years ago, many in the sector hoped that decentralization would follow – a belief that led only to disappointment in many respects. While the number of distributed energy generation systems has indeed risen, the wholesale change once envisaged has yet to materialize.
New hydrogen refueling stations continue to spring up but Germany has yet to pass the 100-station mark. How can that be? The reason for this apparent stagnation lies in the dismantling or renovation of old filling stations. A number of stations that were built several years ago as demonstrators for the first stage of Germany’s national hydrogen innovation program are showing their age. Consequently, some are no longer economical to run and are being taken down or – at widely varying expense – upgraded.
A comfortable (yet still exciting) ride
So far, Hyundai has shipped a total of 10,000 Nexo cars. Since launching a fuel cell model in March 2018, the South Korean automaker has delivered more FCEVs than any other vehicle manufacturer in the world. This July alone, an additional 700 Nexo vehicles went to customers in South Korea and 89 were exported to countries around the world. H2-international was given the opportunity to test a Nexo car this summer. The conclusion: If it had a lower price tag and there was a fueling station nearby, the Nexo would be the perfect ride.
Are batteries or fuel cells the more environmentally friendly, technically superior and economically prudent solution for electric transportation? Short answer: It depends.
The expansion of the H2 infrastructure continues – albeit much slower than it could be. The declared goal of having 100 hydrogen refuelling sites in Germany is expected to be achieved by mid-2020 – more than a year later than originally planned. By the end of 2021, 10 to 15 new locations are to be added each year.
Great Wall Motor (GWM) did not join H2 Mobility as originally planned. At the end of October 2018, a press release stated that the Chinese market leader for off-road vehicles and pickups wanted to invest in the German hydrogen filling station network. Nikolas Iwan, Managing Director of H2 Mobility, told the FAZ that he had contacted GWM at the beginning of 2018.
Since the number of hydrogen filling stations in Germany is unstoppably approaching the three-digit range, the inauguration celebrations are becoming smaller and the press releases fewer. Most recently, numerous high-ranking industry representatives and politicians appeared at the 50th H2 station in Potsdam.
The German H2 infrastructure is growing steadily. Early this year, Linde expanded its offering around Munich by turning the Linde Hydrogen Center in Unterschleissheim into a public refueling station. What had previously been the industrial gas supplier’s hydrogen R&D facility has been used since Jan. 12 to fill up fuel cell cars such as the ones owned by Linde’s subsidiary BeeZero.
After one hydrogen filling station had each been installed in Wuppertal and Ulm in summer 2016, another three went into operation last fall. As reported previously (see Three New Hydrogen Filling Stations), the H2 pump at the Metzingen gas station south of Stuttgart came online on Sept. 23. Five days later, however, it had to be shut down again when a truck hit it. Its trailer had been caught in the pump, resulting in at least EUR 60,000 in damage.
On May 1, 2016, Nikolas Iwan became the new CEO of H2 MOBILITY Germany. Iwan had previously worked for eight years in different management positions at Shell. His predecessor, Frank Sreball, who has had his own consultancy for management and interim management since 2005, had been the one originally setting up H2 MOBILITY on his own.