FRANKFURT—Everyone agrees that a major roadblock for the hydrogen highway is the infrastructure, and Germany is taking an early lead in ensuring that refueling won’t be an issue.
There were 15 public hydrogen stations in Germany in 2013, mostly operated under the Clean Energy Partnership. But by the end of this year, with German government support, there will be 50 fillers. And the H2 Mobility initiative wants to raise that to 100 stations by 2017 and 400 by 2023—at a total cost of 350 million euros ($396 million). The H2 partners are Air Liquide, Daimler, Linde, OMV, Shell and Total.
The goal is to have a hydrogen station available for every 55 miles of highway in densely populated areas. “Filling stations for this environmentally friendly alternative fuel are still scarce,” said Thomas Weber, a member of the board of management at Daimler AG. “By 2023 there should be more hydrogen filling stations in Germany than there are conventional gasoline stations along the Autobahns today. With this, we create step by step a comprehensive infrastructure for the everyday use of fuel-cell technology.”
The first hydrogen station in Germany opened in Berlin in 2004. German companies participated with the deployment of 40 hydrogen cars and 10 buses (four in Berlin in six in Hamburg). In 2012, power company Vattenfall opened a large hydrogen station in the latter city, delivering enough fuel for 20 fuel-cell buses operated by the public transport authority, Hamburger Hochbaum.
In the spring of this year, the first Autobahn station was opened, located at the Total service area in Geiselwind, on the A3 between Würzburg and Nuremberg. The new station links existing hydrogen fillers in Frankfurt/Main, Stuttgart and Munich, and results in a fuel-cell-friendly hub in southern Germany.
According to Dorothee Bär, parliamentary state secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, who spoke at the opening, “Politics, science and industry have worked together to bring hydrogen mobility to the brink of market entry.” She said the government-industry partnership had funded hydrogen research, development and demonstration programs with 1.4 billion euros ($1.58 billion) through 2016. The Geiselwind station cost nearly one million euros ($113 million) to build.
Across the border in Austria, the Linde Group and OMV opened the country’s second public hydrogen station in Innsbruck on May 21. It can supply hydrogen to as many as six fuel-cell vehicles per hour. The first station, opened in 2012, is in Vienna.
Funding for the Austrian station came from the HyFIVE (Hydrogen for Innovative Vehicles) project, with financial backing by the European Union. HyFIVE is also building urban stations across Europe, in Copenhagen, Stuttgart, Munich, London and Bolzano (Italy).
Munich-based Linde and Siemens AG this year opened Energiepark Mainz, a hydrogen research operation, on the banks of the Rhine River. Robert Adler, the chief engineer for Linde’s hydrogen research effort, said the announcement that Toyota would be deploying a fuel-cell car was a powerful inducement to further develop the country’s hydrogen infrastructure. “When we heard the Mirai was going into production it was one of the most important announcements for our industry,” he told Bloomberg. “It would be a shame if it didn’t take off, because we’ve built up a real expertise.”