In mid-2020, the German government unveiled its National Hydrogen Strategy, a plan to allocate the 9 billion euros ($10.2 billion) currently earmarked for hydrogen energy production in the country. If successful, Germany could become one of the global leaders in hydrogen energy production.
Hydrogen fuel — which does not generate greenhouse gas emissions when produced using renewable energy — has long been seen as a potential silver bullet for remaining green energy production challenges.
Now, Germany may be on track to transform how countries approach public transit and logistics by making hydrogen fuel central to its transportation industry.
Germany Makes Hydrogen Central to Nation’s Energy Future
The National Hydrogen Strategy outlines the steps that the German government plans to take over the next 10 years to produce green energy at an industrial scale.
If successful, the plan will create a major hydrogen industry in the country capable of producing fuel for various purposes — like green maritime shipping, aviation and public transit.
Already, major companies have jumped at the opportunity to start investing in the new German hydrogen industry.
In early 2021, the Linde Group, one of the world’s largest multinational gas companies, announced it would build a new water-to-hydrogen plant in Germany. The plant aims to produce enough hydrogen to power more than 600 fuel cell-powered green buses as a way of jumpstarting the country’s new green transport sector.
Similar hydrogen production projects are being launched across the country. In Hamburg, city officials teamed up with Shell, Mitsubishi and the Swedish energy company Vattenfall to convert a coal plant to a hydrogen production facility.
The facility is set to be operational in 2025 and will have an initial output of 100 megawatts.
Hydrogen fuel, when produced with renewable energy, is one of the cleanest available power sources. They are also efficient and scalable, meaning they may provide a practical alternative to non-renewable sources, like fossil fuels.
Hydrogen provides a practical solution to one of the largest current green energy problems — it’s not possible to power everything with grid-based renewable energy. For example, maritime shipping, aviation and cars all require some kind of fuel cell.
In the past, this has meant reliance on sources like marine gas oil or, more recently, liquified natural gas. Soon, liquified hydrogen and hydrogen cells could provide a valuable, near-emissions free alternative.
There are limitations to hydrogen fuel that may slow its adoption. By volume, hydrogen has a low energy content — meaning that extremely high pressures, low temperatures or chemical processes are necessary to store it efficiently. Efficient storage is essential, as there is limited space for energy on a marine tanker, electric vehicle or airplane.
Despite these challenges, hydrogen fuel offers significant potential benefits — if countries can invest enough to produce it at scale.
Germany May Lead the Way on Hydrogen-Powered Transportation
Right now, hydrogen looks like it may play a significant role in the future of Germany’s transportation sector. Major investment could pave the way for broader adoption of hydrogen power in transportation.
At scale, hydrogen power could help make the transportation industry much more sustainable and provide a valuable green alternative to natural gas and other fossil fuels.
Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co. Jane covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, green technology, renewable energy and more.
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