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"Hydrogen is an energy source for the 21st century. Along with regenerative primary energy it provides a foundation for the power industry of the future," says the German Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (DWV). "It can be produced from its chemical compounds, in particular water (electrolysis), and except for water it creates zero emissions with no carbon dioxide when burned," according to the organization that represents "everyone in Germany who advocates the general use of hydrogen as an energy source in the economy."

DWV is one of 150 exhibitors from 25 countries that are participating in Europe's largest platform for Hydrogen + Fuel Cells + Batteries. Decentralized energy supply is a key focus of the group exhibit of the same name in Hall 27. The discussions and interviews from the exhibit’s public and technical forums will be live-streamed on the Internet.

A model at the stand by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) demonstrates that hydrogen can also be used in the air: The HY4, the world's first four-passenger airplane operated solely by a hydrogen fuel cell battery system was developed in Stuttgart. The plane can reach a cruising speed of 145km/h, and its range is approximately 1,000 km. The HY4’s virgin flight is scheduled for the summer of 2016.

The Linde Group is bringing its Pedelec to Energy: The electric motor of this bike is powered by a fuel cell. It replaces the battery and generates electricity using a hydrogen cylinder to help bikers along. The special fueling system has a range in excess of 100 kilometers; refilling the cylinder takes around five minutes.

H2 Mobility Deutschland from Berlin is appearing for the first time at the group exhibit. The goal of this consortium from the automotive, gas, and petroleum industries is to install 100 hydrogen refuelling stations in the next few years. 400 hydrogen fuelling stations are scheduled to be in operation by 2023 in Germany.

"The Energy flagship fair is Europe’s largest exhibition in this area," states Tobias Renz, who is coordinating the group exhibit. "Not even the USA has a similar event – even though hydrogen is an important topic there." For that reason around 20 exhibitors from HANNOVER MESSE 2016's Partner Country are participating in Hydrogen + Fuel Cells + Batteries .

Growing interest in this area is also reflected in other areas at Energy. Numerous exhibitors are focusing on exploring the transformation of wind power into hydrogen or methane. While SMEs such as GP Joule usually follow a decentralized, smaller approach, Siemens offers the largest PEM electrolysis system available to date on the market. Both approaches are being showcased at the Integrated Energy Plaza in Hall 27.

Hydrogen-powered vehicles of all types can be test driven at the MobiliTec Testparcours in front of Hall 27. At the Distributed Energy Supply area (Hall 27) hydrogen also plays a starring role: 2G is bringing a block-type combined heat and power plant with electrical performance of up to 120 kW to the group exhibit Decentralized Energy Generation. The CHP is fueled by "green" hydrogen and can achieve energy efficiency of 41 percent.

The Dresden firm Fuel-Cell Energy Solutions (FCES) is showing its 1.4 MW fuel cell for Europe’s first stationary fuel cell power plant that is currently being constructed in Mannheim, Germany. Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to generate heat and direct current.

E.ON is also heavily involved in electrolysis technology. In the fall of 2015, E.ON's Hamburg-based subsidiary HanseWerk began operating a large 1.5 MW electrolysis plant that converts current from renewable energy sources into hydrogen and feeds it into the natural gas grid. From here, it can be used to generate heat, as fuel for cars and busses, or for materials processing in industry. According to E.ON the efficiency of the current-to-hydrogen conversion is 72 percent. "We are still in the start-up phase, and I think we will even be able to bump this figure up a bit higher," says project leader René Schoof of E.ON Gas Storage.