Where to fill up your hydrogen car in Europe?
What do EVs and hydrogen have in common? The chicken and egg paradox! Recharging stations before vehicles or vice versa. So, let’s have a look at the hydrogen charging stations in Europe.
If you take a look at the map with hydrogen charging stations in Europe – 152 active ones in total according to H2stations.org - , it is clear that they are not spread equally across the continent. Some countries lead the race, while others don’t even have a single station. And it becomes worse if we only take the already operating stations into account.
‘Wir schaffen das’ is not only applicable on German migration policy, but also on its deployment of hydrogen refuelling stations. There are no other countries coming even close to the number of charging stations in operation in Germany, with a similar number of planned stations.
Germany has 60 public hydrogen fuel stations, and the number is increasing significant. Last year 17 new stations came online – of the 48 new installed stations in the entire world -, while 38 new stations are planned. During 2019 the German joint venture around H2 Mobility Deutschland wants to construct at least 100 stations.
At the moment there may not be many hydrogen stations in operation, but the Netherlands are putting hydrogen high on the agenda. With a meaningful number of charging stations on its way. There are about 17 hydrogen stations planned for the near future, which will take the Netherlands to the #2 of hydrogen providers in Europe.
Considering the high cost of construction, the government of the Netherlands pledged to co-finance the construction of 9 new public hydrogen stations, in addition to investment of the private sector and subsidies of the European Union.
In addition to the current 2 active hydrogen stations, a third will be deployed in April 2019. One of the two previous ones was installed as part of the European Interreg programme ‘Hydrogen Region Flanders-Southern-Netherlands’ and resulted in one station in the Netherlands and one in Flanders. The expansion of the hydrogen network throughout neighbouring countries is crucial in the deployment of a credible hydrogen market.
Even though there are not as much active hydrogen fuel stations yet, the Hydrogen for Transport Programme (HTP) must develop the UK hydrogen market up to 2020. Launched in August 2017 by the UK Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), the programme provides funding for both hydrogen refuelling stations as hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.
As a result, at least 5 new hydrogen refuelling stations, 73 fuel cell electric vehicles and 33 fuel cell electric buses will be installed in the 2nd phase of the project. In the first phase, 4 new stations were constructed, and 190 new fuel cell EVs were deployed (of which more than 170 Toyotas).
Yet, the deployment of hydrogen fuel stations in the other European countries is quite low. Denmark has a considerable number of fuel stations, whereas Austria, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Portugal and Spain have but a few fuel stations. The fuel stations in Italy are all located in the North, leaving the south of Italy completely hydrogen free. The Eastern European countries on the other hand, except for Czech Republic, do not have active hydrogen fuel station at all.
However, this might change any soon, when we look at pan-European scale. Considering the high cost of hydrogen infrastructure, a more global and/or European approach can serve the entire hydrogen industry a lot. Besides the country-specific initiatives there are some pan-European projects to establish a European hydrogen network.
The H2ME project of Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), a public-private partnership, aims to support the hydrogen fuel cell and energy technology in Europe. It was co-funded with €67 million from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. The project aims to deploy 47 new hydrogen refuelling stations, of which 20 in Germany, 10 in France, 10 in Scandinavia, 6 in the UK and 1 in the Netherlands. Additionally, the project aims to deploy 500 new FCEVs and 900 fuel cell vehicle (range-extended electric) vans by 2022.
So, where to charge?
The hydrogen refuelling network might not be as widespread yet, but so was the EV charging network in the beginning of its existence. Moreover, countries such as the UK, Germany and the Netherlands show how governments and industry can partner up to boost the hydrogen market and expand the current charging network. Add the European initiatives and soon it the chicken and egg paradox might be challenged.
Additionally, note that less hydrogen fuel stations might be required than EV charging stations to serve the same number of vehicles, since refuelling a hydrogen car takes only 3 to 5 minutes, while an EV needs 30 to 50 minutes at a fast charger and a couple of hours at a level 2 charger.