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A renewable energy deal for Europe

A renewable energy deal for Europe could provide employment, revive Europe’s economy, and fight climate change. Renewable forms of energy such as wind and solar power along with the component of energy storage, will not only fight climate change by reducing CO2 emissions, but also provide fuel for motor vehicles and be the basis of economic growth for years to come.

The need to find clean sources of energy could be illustrated by a disused petrol station in the city of Duisburg in the Ruhr region of Germany. The photograph of this abandoned fuel station was taken by Jolyon Gumbrell in February 2016. The fuel station is located just opposite the tram stop at Lutherplatz, Mülheimer Strasse in Duisburg. It may have been closed because of competition from two other petrol stations in the same street, or is it a more general sign that there is less demand for the fossil fuels of petrol and diesel as new more efficient hybrid vehicles are introduced, indicated by the recent lower price of oil? The author has seen two other disused petrol station sites in Düsseldorf, one of which at the time of writing is being redeveloped for housing.

If old petrol stations are being closed, then there is an opportunity for these sites to be redeveloped into hydrogen refuelling stations in order to provide the supporting infrastructure for the new zero emissions hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The problem is that the old stations are not being converted quickly enough into the new hydrogen refuelling stations. H2 Mobility Deutschland is responsible for building hydrogen refuelling stations in Germany as a partner in the Hydrogen Mobility Europe (H2ME) project. In an editorial article published in the January 2016 edition of Hzwei, a trade magazine for the hydrogen and fuel cell industry in Germany, Sven Geitman wrote about a delay in the “50-Tankstellen-Programm”, where a target of 50 hydrogen refuelling stations was missed for the end of 2015, when at the time only 19 stations had been built.

Why has there been a delay in building the new hydrogen refuelling stations? One of the problems is that some motor manufacturers such as Volkswagen, have been slow to develop a hydrogen fuel cell car for the mass market. In the autumn of 2015, when the VW exhaust gas emissions scandal came to light, Jolyon Gumbrell wrote in his Ideas on Europe blog, that the rescue of VW would involve a hydrogen powered engine. Since that time Volkswagen appears to have made no progress in developing an engine of this type.

Toyota is ahead of other automobile manufacturers with the hydrogen-fuelled Mirai, which is on sale in the United States for $57,500. The Mirai is already on the road in some parts of Europe. In October 2015 a press release from ITM Power said that Toyota was going to deliver 12 new Mirai hydrogen powered vehicles to London. This announcement originally came from the office of the Mayor of London, which said four of these vehicles would “be taken on by Transport for London to assist with essential engineering and maintenance work carried out between bus stops and Tube stations.”

In the press release Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London was quoted as saying: “It is fantastic that London will benefit from these new state of-the-art hydrogen vehicles. By embracing this technology of the future, we aim to consolidate hydrogen’s role as a practical alternative fuel for the 21st century and beyond. I am sure that Transport for London will provide the ideal environment for us to see everything the Mirai can do and, in doing so, take another great step towards improving air quality in our city and protecting the health of Londoners.”

While the Mayor of London should be praised for the work he has done on this project as well as the introduction of hydrogen buses in London, which will both help improve air quality in the city and reduce CO2 emissions; his support for the “Brexit” for Britain to leave the EU is not consistent with this position. Why would the Mayor of London want Britain to withdraw from the EU when the partners for the HyFIVE project are operating successfully within the EU?

The HyFIVE project which is delivering the hydrogen refuelling stations to London was described under “Notes to Editors” at the bottom of the press release as follows: “The Mayor of London is leading the European Hydrogen for Innovative Vehicles project. HyFIVE is an FCHJU (Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking – part funded project made up of 5 manufacturers (BMW, Daimler AG, Honda Europe, Hyundai Motor Europe, Toyota Motor Europe); 5 hydrogen refuelling infrastructure providers (Air Products, Danish Hydrogen Fuel, ITM Power, Linde,OMV); and 5 consultancies and non-profit or government bodies (Element Energy, Greater London Authority, Istituto per Innovazioni i Technologiche Bolzano, Thinkstep, The Danish Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells ).”

The use of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles across Europe would not only help cut harmful greenhouse gas emissions, but also cut Europe’s reliance on imported oil. Each new fuel station would be a mini power station with its own renewable sources of energy similar to the one built by ITM Power on the M1 in South Yorkshire, England, and described on ITM’s website as consisting “of a 225kW wind turbine coupled directly to an electrolyser, 220kg of hydrogen storage, a hydrogen dispensing unit and a 30kW fuel cell system capable of providing backup power generation for nearby buildings.” The new stations would also have electric power points to charge up the batteries of electric vehicles.

To build a network of hydrogen refuelling stations across Europe will require coordination at a European level with national and local partners, to get the infrastucture in place to provide the fuel for a new generation of clean fuel vehicles. This could be part of a more ambitious renewable energy deal for Europe.


Geitman, Sven. (Januar 2016) “Entscheidung erforderlich”, Hzwei

Disused petrol station in Duisburg, Germany.

Disused petrol station in Duisburg, Germany.©Jolyon Gumbrell 2016

©Jolyon Gumbrell 2016

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