Industry group plans to establish network of hydrogen filling stations

October 02, 2013 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
When in comes to emission-free driving and electromobility, battery-electric vehicles usually take centre stage. But silently, an alternative technology is maturing towards its commercial roll-out: Fuel cell drives which generate the electricity by using a hydrogen fuel cell stack. Now six companies in Germany have introduced a plan to establish a nationwide hydrogen filling station - an important infrastructure building block for a fuel-cell based automobility.

Within the scope of their "H2 Mobility" initiative, the companies agreed to establish some 400 hydrogen filling stations by 2023 - still a rather modest goal, but at a distance of some 90 km between two stations, its implementation would bring at least one filling station into the reach of most fuel-cell based vehicles throughout Germany. Members of the initiative are industrial gases companies Air Liquide and Linde AG, carmaker Daimler and petrol companies OMV, Shell and Total. The first 100 stations will be operative within the next four years - high time since several carmakers have already announced plans for the commercial roll-out of fuel cell vehicles within this time frame, among them Daimler and Toyota.

The agreement between the six companies includes a detailed roadmap as well as the fundamentals for procurement and sales of the hydrogen. As the next steps, the group will launch a joint venture which will handle the gradual expansion of the filling station network. The goal of the project is to establish such a network not only in the metropolitan regions but also in rural areas and thus create an infrastructure that is fit for everyday use of such vehicles. The group earmarks an investment volume of some 350 million euros.

At the same time, the group made clear that further technological progress in the fuel cell technology are indispensible to reach a broader market acceptance. The Clean Energy Parnership (CEP), which currently evaluates fuel cell vehicles and related refuelling processes, announce to support the initiative. Members of the CEP include carmakers BMW (which conducts fuel cell research in an alliance with Toyota), Daimler, General Motors and its subsidiary Opel, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Volkswagen as well as electric systems supplier Siemens.