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One of the big questions facing automakers currently is where the power for their electric vehicles should come from. In Germany, hydrogen and fuel cell technology is an increasingly strong contender in this regard. So much so, in fact, that the country's political leaders are starting to put in place the necessary programs. The northern states of Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Hamburg and Lower Saxony, for example, have adopted a "North German Hydrogen Strategy". HANNOVER MESSE has addressed these issues and challenges for years with a dedicated showcase: Hydrogen + Fuel Cells, Europe's leading event for hydrogen and fuel cell technology.

Hannover. The North German Hydrogen Strategy includes a number of very ambitious goals. For example, it aims to have at least 500 megawatts of electrolysis capacity installed in Germany's high-wind northern regions by 2025, rising sharply to at least five gigawatts by 2030. 500 megawatts – theoretically, that would be enough to supply some 150,000 EVs with clean, green hydrogen. Five gigawatts would supply 10 times that many. On the other hand, industry experts caution that it would take about 250 hydrogen refueling stations to achieve anything like a seamless supply network.

Although there is a lot happening in the hydrogen and fuel cells space now, the industry still has some work to do before one can speak of a big breakthrough. This is where the Hydrogen + Fuel Cells showcase at HANNOVER MESSE has an important part to play as an incubator of technological inspiration and initiatives for the ongoing development of a hydrogen economy in Germany, the whole of Europe and, ultimately worldwide.

Grand as that claim may sound, it is based on solid industry demand. "Since its launch more than 10 years ago, Hydrogen + Fuel Cells has become Europe's most important showcase for hydrogen and fuel cell technology," explains Basilios Triantafillos, Global Director Energy Solutions at Deutsche Messe. "For 2020 we are expecting more than 200 exhibitors from all around the world. That's an all-time record for Hydrogen + Fuel Cells ."

Among the exhibitors at the showcase will be H2 Mobility Deutschland, a joint venture between Air Liquide, Daimler, Linde, OMV, Shell and TOTAL tasked with rolling out hydrogen refueling stations in Germany. Linde, a global manufacturer of industrial gases, is involved in a number of refueling infrastructure activities in addition to the ones it will be co-presenting at HANNOVER MESSE 2020. For example, it recently stepped up its involvement in the production of hydrogen using electrolyzers. This involved acquiring a stake in UK-based fuel cell specialist ITM Power with a view to jointly building the world's largest electrolyzer factory in Sheffield. The two companies have plans to build electrolyzers with capacities of 10 megawatts and more, and have their sights set on developing a mass-producible 5-megawatt module.

Germany's Bosch and Sweden's Powercell also have a joint venture. They will be bringing fresh optimism to the fuel-cell scene when they exhibit at Hydrogen + Fuel Cells in Hall 27 at HANNOVER MESSE. "Battery electric propulsion is a good solution for light commercials and passenger cars with a daily range of between 100 and 200 kilometers. However, many drivers, particularly operators of heavy vehicles, travel longer distances than that. Hence that's a segment where we believe fuel cells can deliver major benefits," explained Jürgen Gerhard, who is head of mobile fuel-cell production at Robert Bosch GmbH. Powercell has strengths in technology designed for passenger car applications that is readily transferrable to commercial vehicle applications. Gerhardt: "The S3 stack, which is the focus of the cooperation between Bosch and Powercell, is extremely compact and lightweight, so it is easier to integrate into vehicles."

Overall, there is a palpable sense of optimism among organizations involved in hydrogen and fuel cell technology, a growing feeling that things are finally moving – in all areas, research, manufacturing and supply. There is also a strong realization that greater use of electric vehicles, whether battery or hydrogen-powered, only makes sense if it is based on renewable energy sources.

On the other hand, the statistics from Germany's Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) are somewhat sobering: they show that of the 47 million or so passenger cars on Germany's roads at the start of this year, only about 83,000 had electric propulsion (that includes battery and fuel cell-powered vehicles, plug-in hybrids and related technologies). But if the European Union is actually going to meet its CO2 reduction targets, Germany will need to have between seven and 10.5 million EVs on its roads by 2030.