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Germany to triple number of hydrogen fuel stations

BERLIN: Germany will significantly expand its hydrogen refueling network as it seeks to wean lorries and buses off fossil fuels and decarbonize its transport network. The number of stations in Europe’s largest economy will more than triple to 300 by 2030, the network operator H2 mobility and financial backers said in a statement on Tuesday. Hydrogen produces only steam and no carbon dioxide when burnt, making it an attractive possible alternative to dirtier fossil fuels.

The expansion is being funded by a 70-million-euro ($77-million) cash injection from the specialist investment fund Hy24, which will also take a 40 percent stake in the project. Existing shareholders in the network, including Air Liquide, Daimler Truck, Hyundai, Linde, OMV, Shell, and TotalEnergies, will invest a further 40 million euros. The backers hope Germany, which already boasts Europe’s densest web of hydrogen refuelling stations, will become the “backbone” of the European transport network, where hydrogen is key to reducing emissions.

New installations will be focused along a number of key “high-traffic corridors” criss-crossing the central European powerhouse. Unlike in passenger vehicles, battery-powered engines are currently not considered strong enough to be used in heavy-goods vehicles. Hydrogen is better adapted to lorries and buses, allowing them to “refuel quickly and cover long distances without sacrificing payload”, the parties said. Founded in 2021 by the French companies Air Liquide, TotalEnergies and Vinci together with the private investment house Ardian, the Hy24 fund specifically targets hydrogen infrastructure projects.

Meanwhile, the mood of consumers in Germany has darkened significantly as the Russian invasion of Ukraine dimmed the outlook for Europe’s largest economy, according to a key survey published Tuesday. Pollster GfK’s forward-looking barometer fell to minus 15.5 percent for April from a revised minus 8.5 percent in March. Hopes that the lifting of coronavirus-related health restrictions would propel an economic recovery had “evaporated” with the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February, GfK consumer expert Rolf Buerkl said.

The shock was felt particularly hard by income expectations, which fell by 25 points to minus 22.1 in March, its lowest level since January 2009 in the midst of the financial crisis. The conflict has given a new push to already high inflation, sending the cost for oil and gas rocketing amid fears that supplies from Russia could be severely curtailed. Rising fuel bills means “consumers see their purchasing power melting away”, the GfK said in a statement.

Consumer prices rose at a rate of 5.1 percent in February, with new figures for March set to be published Wednesday. Germany’s reliance on imports of Russian gas to heat its homes and power its industry meant the country was particularly vulnerable to the economic impact of the war.

The GfK survey of some 2,000 people found that Germans were significantly more pessimistic about the state of the economy, with the indicator falling 33 points to minus 8.9 in March, having risen in the last two months. The impact of sanctions, high energy costs and supply chains broken by the outbreak of the war mean “the risk of a recession has risen sharply”, the pollster said. – AFP

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