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Hydrogen: Energy for a New Age

Follow our Hydrogen Tour through Germany
To try and dispel the myths about hydrogen, we at Toyota Motor Europe set out on a Hydrogen Society Tour. A road trip with a difference. We drove from Hamburg in the North of Germany, to Stuttgart in the glorious state of Baden-Württemberg in the South and back, racking up a total of 900km of emission-free driving.

The chicken or the egg?

An age-old dilemma. You know the story; you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. How does anything new get off the ground when both sides of the argument need some sort of kick start? The same could be said of the Hydrogen Society, and especially linked to transport. Many companies, and especially Toyota, are developing hydrogen powered vehicles but why would anyone want to buy a car that they cannot refuel anywhere due to the lack of fuelling stations? 

To try and dispel the myths, we at Toyota Motor Europe set out on a Hydrogen Society Tour. A road trip with a difference. 


900km of emission-free driving

We drove from Hamburg in the North of Germany, to Stuttgart in the glorious state of Baden-Württemberg in the South and back, racking up a total of 900km of emission-free driving. And contrary to a typical road test, the invited media were not only there to test our car – the Mirai, (although it did serve as means of transport throughout the trip) but to see what is happening today with regards to hydrogen production and distribution.

The aim being to demonstrate that hydrogen is neither the chicken nor the egg and that through close collaboration we can make the Hydrogen Society and the transition from our dependence on carbon, a reality.

Visit 1 – Hamburg

Famous for having the world’s largest model railway and the beginning of our road trip.

  • HafenCity hydrogen station

    So, you won’t buy a hydrogen car because there is nowhere to refuel. Wrong. Our journey starts in Hamburg and specifically at the HafenCity hydrogen station, installed by Vattenfall Energy Company. The hydrogen station in HafenCity, now fuelled by H2Mobility demonstrates the ultimate way in which to refuel a hydrogen car in a sustainable way.  

  • Up to 750kg of hydrogen per day

    At least half of the hydrogen is produced on-site from the electrolysis of water (splitting it into its constituent parts Hydrogen and Oxygen) using electricity coming exclusively from renewable sources. This reduces the need to transport off-site produced hydrogen to the station. The resulting liberated hydrogen is then stored on-site in pressurised tanks until needed to refuel the hydrogen cars and buses of Hamburg.  It can currently provide up to 750kg of hydrogen per day. The site is currently used by up to 6 public buses and dozens of cars per day.

And here’s a word from the experts.

Visit 2 – Cologne

The beautiful city of Cologne renowned for its High Gothic architectural cathedral was the next stop on the journey.

  • HyCologne: from the chemical industry to hydrogen

    Who would have imagined that a by-product from the chemical industry could power a vehicle? One of these by-products is what interests us, hydrogen, a by-product of the industrial production of chlorine and enough of it to power 1000 buses per day. The clever people within HyCologne, an organisation of 28 public and private partners, saw this by-product as an opportunity. It led to the construction of a hydrogen fuel station right next to a plant and the subsequent ramp up of a fleet of hydrogen powered buses for the Cologne region.  

  • Hydrogen-powered buses

    One of the benefits of this initiative is the reduction in local pollution of particulate matter associated with transport.  They (the RVK – Regionalverkehr Köln (in German) – local transport company) currently have 2 Fuel Cell buses and wish to extend their fleet by 30 more, by 2019 and transform their entire fleet of 300 vehicles to hydrogen by 2030. Toyota is also promoting hydrogen buses in Japan and expects to have over 100 in operation mainly in the Tokyo area in the run up to the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Whether it’s individual or collective transportation, hydrogen has the answer.

Visit 3 – Mainz

Mainz is one of the oldest cities in Europe, but it is thoroughly up to date when it comes to the Hydrogen Society.

  • Powering vehicles (and more) with wind energy

    Mainz was the 3rd stop on the tour. This was the chance to visit a truly innovative project that had been initiated by Linde AG, Siemens AG, Hochschule RheinMain and the Mainzer Stadtwerke AG.  The aim: to power vehicles (and more) with energy from the wind. The process is called power to gas, and as with the installation in Hamburg, EnergiePark Mainz uses renewable electricity produced by the neighbouring wind turbines to produce hydrogen by electrolysis. It has an annual output of 200 tons as from 2017 onwards, enough to refuel a Mirai more than 40,000 times.

  • Many ways of using hydrogen

    Hydrogen can be produced sustainably and stored onsite. It can then either be:

    • transported to refuelling stations and used to fuel hydrogen vehicles,
    • injected into the gas grid to replace by up to 10% the natural gas used for heating or cooking for example, considerably reducing CO2 emissions with no need for a change in the existing infrastructure.
    • or used for what we call grid balancing. This is where the hydrogen can be converted back into electricity, enabling us to use intermittent wind energy when we actually need it and avoid restarting a traditional power plant for example. Genius!

Listen to the experts.

Visit 4 – Mannheim

Mannheim was the starting point of an historic event way back in 1888 and the 4th stop on our tour. Bertha Benz drove the Patent Motorwagen from Mannheim to Pforzheim, a distance of 106km that represented the first real drive over a considerable distance.

  • The “first-of-its-kind” fuel cell power station

    How is hydrogen being entwined into the manufacturing industry of high energy consuming processes? This was the question that Friatec asked themselves and resulted in the creation of a “first-of-its-kind” installation in Europe, a fuel cell power station. It has a capacity of 1,4 megawatts and provides Friatec (a materials specialist) with virtually emission-free electricity and heat. The installation that was jointly installed by E.ON and FuelCell Energy Solutions uses natural gas, and through a non-combustion process creates hydrogen then used to generate electricity via a fuel cell. The process also generates heat used on-site within Friatec’s industrial processes.

  • Reducing not only CO2 emissions

    The installation covers 60% of the site energy needs with an efficiency of more than 80%. The plant has enabled the site to reduce its CO2 emissions by approximately 3000 tons per year. This is the equivalent to 250,000 family cars driving 100km! But it is not only CO2, but the power plant also emits no NOx, particulate matter, or noise. Truly one way of responding to the energy needs of industry in an environmentally considerate way.

A word from Friatec…

Visit 5 – Stuttgart

Stuttgart, traditionally known for its car industry was the final stop on our tour. However, we were not here to see cars… our interest was focussed on the DLR (the German Aerospace Centre) and the presentation of a commercially viable hydrogen plane for the future.

  • A hydrogen-powered aeroplane

    Here we saw how far hydrogen technology is spreading into every aspect of our lives. The DLR and H2Fly presented a hydrogen powered aeroplane, the HY4, capable of transporting 4 people in emission free flight up to 1500km. The HY4 is the world’s first four-seater passenger aircraft powered solely by a hydrogen fuel cell and electric propulsion system.  It makes low noise, emits no particulate matter, and makes CO2 free air travel a reality.

  • Developing an “electric air taxi” network

    The vision in Germany is to develop an “electric air taxi” network that will link the 60+ regional and international airports. This will be the beginning of fast and flexible passenger transportation that can greatly contribute to reducing road congestion as well as bringing development opportunities to these regional transport hubs. The next step is to produce a 40-seater aeroplane – “watch this space” or more appropriately “the skies”.

The sky is not the limit for hydrogen!