Copenhagen: Green city with high ambitions to become emission free until 2025 with major efforts on their way

The special highlight of the Copenhagen event was that on 9th October representatives from politics (Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) and automobile industry (Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota) had jointly signed a memorandum of understanding(read press release here) to prepare for a commercialization of fuel cell cars by rolling out cars and the required refueling infrastructure with a large degree of coordination.


Signing of the MoU between four automakers and Scandinavian organisations.

Even though this event had not been prepared by the H2moves Scandinavia project, it served as a perfect input to next day’s hydrogen and fuel cell vehicle expert workshop. Also, the signature event was accompanied by a ride & drive event not only for the VIP guests but also for the public. The test drives continued the next day, when about 20 drivers used the vehicles for a total of 24 individual rides.

On the last event day of the European Hydrogen Road Tour, about 80 guests gathered at the Society of Danish Engineers in Copenhagen. Representatives from industry, government, hydrogen initiatives, universities and the press met to exchange their views and share insights on next steps to introduce fuel cells and hydrogen in transport. A unique detail of this road tour event was that a representative from a national Oil Industry Association provided his insights to fuel cells and hydrogen for transport.

The seminar in Copenhagen was well attended.

The seminar in Copenhagen was well attended.

After a warm welcome from the event host Ole Balslev (Chairman of Automotive Section – The Danish Society of Engineers) the project H2moves Scandinavia and the four participating car manufacturers presented their companies’ views on “FCEV commercialization status & plans”. Even after four weeks of discussions the questions & answers session revealed that questions yet unheard came up as a pleasant surprise to the project partners. Automobile industry again reported about the clear evidence of how far the technology has progressed. One presenter told the story of how the low temperature capability was reached and when it was understood that “engineers cannot beat physics” (freezing of water) an adapted approach of water draining was developed. In the strive for the electric vehicle that will be fully accepted by the customers, the car manufacturers insisted on the fuel cell technology avoiding Marie Antoniette’s idiom “if there is no bread eat cake instead” which will not be an acceptable solution.

A public ride&drive event was held at DTU (Technical University of Denmark).

A public ride&drive event was held at DTU (Technical University of Denmark).

One of these questions was about the fuel cell deterioration with respect to calendar lifetime of the FCEVs, or more precisely, the fuel cell stacks themselves. All auto makers unanimously provided the same answer: The lifetime of a fuel cell is longer than the lifetime of most of the rest of the car. In tests where fuel cells were stored for a couple of years, no deterioration could be detected. Another question addressed a comparison of development expenditures for fuel cell and conventional internal combustion engines. Here the reply was that the questions was understood as being of rhetoric nature: how could a development period of 100 years (combustion engine) be compared with development period of 15 years? Of course, not at all! And finally, the question why automobile industry would not pursue onboard reforming with the beauty of liquid fuels onboard was answered that the challenges were found to be in the complexity, maintainability, difficult dynamics and high specific costs of this high unit production component as compared to large scale central but stationary reforming.

The second session with regional contributions from Norway, Sweden and Denmark specifically addressed the issue of “Infrastructure status & plans throughout Scandinavia”.

For customers’ convenience, a focused retail unit has been established earlier this year by the name of HyOP. The goal is that all existing stations should be open 24hours and 7 days a week and hydrogen should be paid for with regular credit card. Also, the Norwegian HRS infrastructure is to be expanded. Now, there are 21 FCEVs at the moment plus five CHIC fuel cell busses. During the pre-commercial phase, a viable business model will be developed. To fuel 10,000 cars, 20-30 stations are needed in Oslo and vicinity. There is the possibility to build stations and gradually extend them with a modular system adapting the size to the growing hydrogen demand, greatly reducing costs.

The hydrogen strategies in Sweden are carried on by Hydrogen Sweden as NGO comprising 55 members from the entire fuel cell/hydrogen value chain: industry, transportation, energy, consultancy & engineering, universities & institutes as well as public organizations. Even though full governmental support is missing, there is a total of 100 organization are involved in hydrogen activities in one or the other way across all of Sweden. As part of the Next Move project a joint vehicle tender from Sweden, Denmark and Norway for FCEVs has been issued. This tender will, among other also co-fund the 15 Hyundai ix35 FCEV for Copenhagen in the HyTEC project in April 2013. About five FCEVs are going to each, Norway and Sweden. A highly visible focus for early HRS infrastructure roll out in Sweden is the corridor highway from Oslo (Norway) to Copenhagen (Denmark) which also includes the western coastline of Sweden.

A Toyota FCV-adv refuelling at H2Logic's movable hydrogen station, placed in Copenhagen during the event days.

A Toyota FCV-adv refuelling at H2Logic’s movable hydrogen station, placed in Copenhagen during the event days.

A Toyota FCV-adv refuelling at H2Logic’s movable hydrogen station, placed in Copenhagen during the event days.Finally, Denmark’s highly ambitious vision for a hydrogen infrastructure roll out by 2050 is to supply 95% zero emission cars. Following automobile industry’s guidance this will possibly be achieved by an equal share of battery (short range) and fuel cell (medium to long range) electric vehicles. Today, there are three HRS in Denmark, but only one of these has latest pre-cooling, 700 bar technology. Until 2015, a network of stations shall be erected in Denmark to become denser in the following years. A cash flow assessment showed that from 2025 onwards commercial business can be expected. As Denmark profits from a perfect wind energy potential, the hydrogen stations are supposed to be supplied by onsite hydrogen production. Today, Denmark has about 2,000 gasoline stations to supply about 2.1 million passenger cars, yielding a ratio of 1,000 cars per station which is much higher than the average fuel station density in Europe (Germany: about 3,000 cars per station). It is anticipated that a network of 450 hydrogen refueling station will allow a full coverage of the country then growing further if hydrogen has kicked off as a major fuel. A fairly recent development, which has also been taken up by Danish actors, is the economic improvement of the use of hydrogen as vehicle fuel and storage medium at large scale, leveling out fluctuating renewable

Among others, the audience was keen to understand the societal costs for the required fuelling infrastructure? It was pointed out that a (cheap) bottle of wine per inhabitant per day for one year would cover the initial development costs. In comparison about 1,000 hydrogen refueling stations are needed for base coverage and to cover the investments about 5 % of the vehicles’ price tag could pay for this early roll-out.

Another question addressed whether industry believed that home refueling stations would ever become competitive for individual households. Although not being an issue for some of the stakeholders at all (“even a washing machine is seen as a product too complex to stand in each single household”) , one automobile manufacturer thought it could become an option for collective fuel supply for new residential projects in the form of energy stations, including stationary fuel cell for energy co-generation, serving several households. A rhetoric question was answered as expected pointing out at the economic synergy of using fork lift truck refueling stations to simultaneously providing public hydrogen fuel.

The last session was focusing on “Outside views on hydrogen & electro-mobility”. A representative from the City of Copenhagen presented the ambitious efforts that are being undertaken to improve today’s unsustainable transport in Copenhagen (local and GHG emissions, noise and congestion) in a city posed to grow from 500 to 600 thousand inhabitants by 2015. The general goal of the “Copenhagen 2025 Climate Plan” aims to reduce CO2 emissions for Copenhagen to zero by 2025. 200-250 billion DKK and about 28,000-35,000 FTE (full time equivalent) of manpower are earmarked to solve the challenges. 11% of the total CO2 reduction needs to be provided from the transport sector. Clean fuels are but just one option to solve the environmental and sustainability challenges. The vision is that an equal share of 1/3 will finally be shouldered by bicycles, public transport as well as individual cars. To enable the fuel cell vehicle market to kick off, three 700 bar hydrogen refueling stations of latest design HRS are to be built in Copenhagen until 2015. Also, by 2015 (!) the municipal car fleet should be composed of 85% CO2 free vehicles with batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.

The questions from the audience addressed the issue of congestion charges in Copenhagen resembling those for London, only exempting electric cars. Even though the Copenhagen City Council is in favor of such a solution and different from London, Copenhagen alone cannot enact such a regulation as this would have to be decided at national level.

The clear statement of the Danish Oil Industry Association was that hydrogen as one optional alternative fuels of the future in need to demonstrate the performance of fossil based fuels today. Based on its insights (drivability, comfort, reach, refuelability, economy, ecologic performance, etc.), hydrogen fuelled fuel cell cars already today offer a relevant perspective even though several ‘bugs’ need to be solved (costs and infrastructure, safety perception in the public). From their view, hydrogen should be produced from renewable and sustainable sources at affordable costs and profitable for industry.

A (rhetoric) question from the audience touched on the issue whether the societal costs of fossil energy imports, instead of creating value within Denmark and Scandinavia have already been addressed. Also, one opinion was that a ‘black&white’ approach should be avoided of e.g. ‘only hydrogen from renewable’ versus ‘a cost and ecological impact’ approach which would allow growing quantities of renewable hydrogen to enter the market. This would truly reflect the universality of hydrogen as alternative vehicle fuel and energy carrier.