Germany’s Pioneering Hydrogen Mobility Vision

Germany’s approach to achieving climate neutrality by 2045 includes various strategies to mitigate climate impact, but the country’s ambitious move towards hydrogen mobility stands out.

The recent update to Germany’s National Hydrogen Strategy (NHS) lays a framework for integrating hydrogen technology across various modes of transport, including road, air and sea. This multi-faceted approach aims to significantly reduce the transport sector’s carbon footprint, leveraging hydrogen’s potential as a clean energy carrier.

Camila Tubella, green hydrogen project developer at Pacifico Energy Partners, said at a recent webinar: “In Germany, there is a lot of readiness to use hydrogen in mobility.”

One of the central components of Germany’s hydrogen mobility strategy is the development of a nationwide hydrogen refueling infrastructure, an initiative many other European countries are wary of as hydrogen’s low volumetric energy density puts it at a disadvantage to diesel. In the UK, energy major Shell opened three hydrogen filling stations between 2017 and 2019, but by 2022 the company had taken a decision to close them all down.

This German hydrogen endeavor is supported by the long-standing National Innovation Programme for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NIP), an early adopter of hydrogen mobility in the continent, which started off with a sizeable budget of €1.4 billion ($1.5 billion). The National Organisation for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NOW) runs this ambitious scheme.

HySteelStore, one such project funded by the NIP, aims to solve the difficult integration of a hydrogen tank into a passenger vehicle. Heavy trucks are more suited to being fitted with a hydrogen tank.

The HySteelStore project’s modular steel tank system, designed for integration into future battery electric vehicle (BEV) platforms with underbody battery modules, aims to offer better geometric flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability compared to Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer (CFRP) tanks. This is an example of an innovation that could make a difference in passenger vehicle hydrogen mobility.

Moreover, Germany is making investments in the overall innovation and development of hydrogen technologies. The establishment of the German National Hydrogen Council (Nationaler Wasserstoffrat) early on is a testament to the country’s dedication to supporting research and innovation in the field, much needed in the nascent development of hydrogen fuel cells.

However, transitioning to hydrogen-powered transport is riddled with challenges, including the high initial costs of hydrogen technology and security of green hydrogen supply.

Recent difficulties also included the sacking of a key government official in February in the wake of a nepotism scandal. Consequently, the German transport ministry has put a temporary freeze on the approval of new hydrogen-related funding initiatives.

But other sources of funding for hydrogen continue. The European Commission has approved a €2.2 billion German scheme to support the electrification and decarbonization of industrial processes, including investments enabling the substitution of fossil fuels with renewable hydrogen or renewable hydrogen-derived fuels, to foster the transition to a net-zero economy. The aid will take the form of direct grants, it will not exceed €200 million per beneficiary and will be granted no later than Dec. 31, 2025.

The European Commission has also approved €350 million German state aid in April to support domestic renewable hydrogen production through the Auction-as-a-Service mechanism from the European Hydrogen Bank. The funding will come in the form of direct grants per kilogram of green hydrogen produced and will be available for up to ten years. The goal is to support the construction of up to 90 megawatts of electrolysis capacity, and to incentivize the production of up to 75,000 metric tons of renewable hydrogen in Germany.

Tags: Renewables