The Netherlands, hydrogen country. Yes, you read that right. These entrepreneurs (and also a professor) really believe that the Netherlands should have hydrogen. As a sustainable alternative to fossil energy and also to earn money with it. And that’s how they’re going to do it.
In more than 50 million tweets and Facebook posts around the world, Stefan Holthausen’s Hesla was applauded. Eh… A Hesla? A Tesla – such a beautiful electric car – but then converted, so that it runs on hydrogen.
Even more durable and the car could suddenly drive two three times as far without having to use the charger. An idea from his nephew Max. Holthausen: ‘Max said to me: I don’t think people understand the enormous potential of hydrogen. We have to show them.’ It wasn’t easy: a Tesla is full of complex software.
But Max Holthausen – engineer and car geek – got it done. ‘We now have a wonderful showcase of the potential of hydrogen.’
Logically right, that hydrogen car
The fact that the Hesla came from Holthausen seems quite remarkable at first glance. His company has been selling gas from Hoogezand in Groningen for almost 75 years. But that sector has been under pressure for some time. In order not to endanger the survival of the family business, Holthausen had to think of something else.
Not necessarily for now, but for the future. That became hydrogen.
Moreover, we have been selling so-called grey hydrogen for fifty years, but only to industry.
“We then started brainstorming: what if we could turn the entire mobility sector upside down with sustainable hydrogen? This is how subsidiaries Clean Technology and Clean Energy Solutions came into being.”
Holthausen – and for that matter everyone who is working on hydrogen – encountered one problem in his great enthusiasm, a classic ‘chicken-and-egg situation’: for car manufacturers, producing vehicles that run on hydrogen is not yet attractive, because there are no filling stations. And for operators of filling stations, the same problem applies: there are no hydrogen cars.
“And what do you do?’” says Holthausen cheerfully. ‘Then you’re going to convert cars yourself. And create demand yourself. Die Hesla was a nice trip, but we think the real market is for company cars of all shapes and sizes.’
Conversion is relatively simple, says Holthausen. Hup, diesel block out, electric motor and hydrogen system in. Mind you, relatively, because it is quite a labor-intensive process. His company has grown considerably in recent times and can now convert around five hundred vehicles a year.
“Hundreds of municipalities, from San Francisco to Rome, have already approached us for street sweepers that run on hydrogen. But that’s too fast for us, we now mainly work for Dutch municipalities.’ Groningen, for example, already purchased a waste truck and a sweeper from Holthausen last year.
For the fleet of the municipality of Groningen, Holthausen produces green hydrogen itself with the power of about 44,000 solar panels. “
Hydrogen cars are slowly trickling into our country, but the real leap is yet to come. We puzzle everything together: because the demand is still so limited, everything is expensive. Fuel cells are expensive, petrol stations are expensive. That still holds back the real leap.”
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