H2 Mobility expands its hydrogen refueling network

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In Germany, government-funded hydrogen filling station operator H2 Mobility has received an investment of €110 million to enable its next phase of growth. The main investor is the French financial company Hy24. Along with expansion goals comes a focus on hydrogen utility vehicles of all sizes.

Hy24 is contributing €70 million, while the remaining €40 million will come from existing shareholders, including Air Liquide, Daimler Truck, Hyundai, Linde, OMV, Shell and TotalEnergies. Hy24 is a merger of Ardian, Europe’s largest private investment company, and investment fund FiveT Hydrogen. Their common goal is to scale up and therefore commercialize hydrogen mobility by accelerating the expansion of service stations.

H2 Mobility indicates that the new shareholder arrives “just in time for the start of the ramp-up of the market for light and medium hydrogen commercial vehicles”. While H2 Mobility CEO Nikolas Iwan also sees the investment from an external financial investor as “an important confirmation of our course”.

Hy24 CEO Pierre-Etienne Franc explained in an interview with our German colleagues from elective.net that: “We see great market potential in Germany and Europe, which is why we are investing at the moment to continue the expansion alongside the market premieres of various hydrogen utility vehicles.” He continued: “We are an independent investor and make our decisions based on that. We are not an industrial company. With our financing, we pursue long-term, profit-oriented interests that have an effective impact on the energy transition.

The capacity of hydrogen filling stations will be multiplied by five

The expansion plan just made possible by this latest round of investment envisions increasing the current number of just under 100 hydrogen filling stations in Germany to 300 by 2030. Although these goals do not seem particularly ambitious, these figures have another meaning. context: above all, H2 Mobility wishes to significantly increase the capacity of the sites. Instead of the previous 200 kilograms of hydrogen per day, the larger stations are designed for one ton of H2. Since the existing sites also need to be upgraded, the capacity of the reservoirs will increase much more than the extension to 300 sites suggests.

In addition, “selected existing sites are to be upgraded as needed” with 350 bar technology, which will allow trucks and buses to refuel there. However, the fuel cell cars that some early stations were designed to run at 700 bar. In many places both were possible, but in some only 700 bar refueling was possible – since in the past H2 Mobility has focused on cars rather than hard to decarbonise sectors such as long-haul, heavy-duty. transport.

“At the moment, the focus is on hydrogen utility vehicles, from vans to trucks,” says Iwan. “That is why we are also upgrading the existing locations to also offer 350 bar refueling if it is not yet available. At the same time, we are keeping the door open for the passenger car sector. »

Utility vehicles or H2 fuel cell cars?

When the managing director of H2 Mobility talks about fuel cell cars, he is mainly referring to BMW’s plans. According to information from mid-March, the company wants to cover “an increasing share of the engine mix” with hydrogen fuel cells from the second half of the decade. Currently, the iX5 Hydrogen is due to enter small-batch production later this year. Possible production models with fuel cells from BMW have not yet been confirmed. The other two automakers offering fuel cell passenger cars, Hyundai and Kia, also currently only have one passenger car with the technology in their program, but use this same fuel cell technology (in part via cooperation agreements) in many commercial and hard-to-decarbonise vehicles. apps.

To support large-scale production, BMW recently called for a denser network of 700-bar filling stations every 100 kilometers along the highway by 2027 instead of every 150 kilometers. However, in view of the vehicles announced in the near future, Alexander Iwan thinks it is fair to also spend money on 350 bar technology.

What type of fuel cell technology?

Incidentally, the fact that Daimler Truck, one of the shareholders of H2 Mobility, openly advocates the use of liquid hydrogen, that is to say hydrogen cooled to -253 degrees Celsius, instead of stored gas under pressure, don’t worry Iwan. “It is a great advantage that Daimler Truck is one of our shareholders, so we are constantly in close contact on the various technologies and can react quickly”, says the managing director. Daimler is also targeting conventional fuel cell technology. In spring 2020, Daimler Truck and the Volvo Group announced a joint venture to develop and build fuel cells for heavy-duty vehicles, while Daimler manufactures electric and hydrogen fuel cell trucks at its plant in Wörth.

For H2 Mobility, the new locations will certainly also fill some gaps on the map, yet the company wants to focus primarily on regions with high demand. This should not only shorten distances for companies with H2 vehicles in their fleets but more importantly provide reliability through alternatives in the region as reliability is essential for corporate customers.

Reporting by Sebastian Schaal, Germany.

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