From left: Takashi Moriya - Honda, Katsuhiko Hirose - Toyota, Peter Froeschle - Daimler and Byung Ki Ahn - Hyundai.

From left: Takashi Moriya – Honda, Katsuhiko Hirose – Toyota, Peter Froeschle – Daimler and Byung Ki Ahn – Hyundai.

The European Hydrogen Road Tour made its first stop in Hamburg on the 13th of September. The local partners, TUHH, Hamburg University of Technology, Vattenfall Europe Innovation GmbH and hySOLUTIONS GmbH had invited us to the Hydrogen Colloquium in Hamburg.

Hamburg is traditionally one of the German cities with most R&D-activities in the field of hydrogen. The newly opened hydrogen refuelling station in the HafenCity, as well as two smaller stations for passenger vehicles and one for busses, adds to the overall infrastructure within the city. By 2013 there will be seven busses operating in Hamburg. Fuel cell cars and a fuel cell tourist ship are already in daily operation, together with a fuel cell tow and fork lift trucks at the airport.

The major drivers behind the strategies, demonstration projects and impressive record of commercialisation efforts are public bodies, such as Hamburger Hochbahn and the Senate. Vattenfall and Airbus represent industry in this process of development.

Germany is the European country having the most offensive strategy for the commercialization of fuel cells and hydrogen. By 2015 the plan is to have 50 hydrogen refuelling stations in operation, allowing the use of about 5,000 fuel cell vehicles. Until then a solid legal framework is expected to be in place allowing the extension of the refuelling station network to 300-400 stations by 2020 and 1.000 stations by 2030. Well placed, this should then serve as basic coverage for full customer outreach throughout Germany. By 2015 it should also become obvious, due to the scaling effect of fuel cell cars, how the fuel cell bus costs can decrease, something expected to follow from the development of passenger car fuel cells.

The seminar offered exiting discussions between the participants. Automobile industry was represented at high level, in fact, Ulrich Bünger as H2mS project coordinator was proud to welcome the major development engineers from each of the following car companies: Byung Ki Ahn from Hyundai, Peter Froeschle from Daimler, Katsuhiko Hirose from Toyota and Takashi Moriya from Honda. Among the conclusions that they drew at the end of the day, was that there is no competition between the automakers today concerning the FCEV market. It will come later, with increasing demand and as competition between regions when demand of more fuel cell vehicles develops.

The representatives from the auto industry also agree that ”leadership” in combination with ”continuity” are key ingredients to establish a market for fuel cells and hydrogen, both in industry and in the regions. They also share their essential ambition for developing FCEVs; fuel diversification, environmental protection and value creation.

The experts joined in the opinion that the European hydrogen infrastructure build up poses one of the biggest challenges as it serves the densest road networks in the World. But on the other hand, currently the potential opportunities to commercialize hydrogen and fuel cells are seen biggest in Europe, specifically in Germany and Scandinavia.

In the short term, three risks have to be overcome: an initial investment risk (requiring guaranties from banks or governments), a market risk (the public needs to be informed and vehicles/fuel have to become affordable) and the first mover disadvantage (which needs to be solved by developing incentives).

As one of the industry representatives put it straight, specifically with a view to the Hamburg region: “Did Hamburg already counterbalance the expenditures for ever growing oil import costs with the use of hydrogen from renewable domestic wind energy?”

The seminar and VIP arrangement of the 13th will be followed by a public ride and drive event in central Hamburg Saturday 15th September.