From Munich to Modena: a new hydrogen highway in Europe

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By deboribo

hydrogen highway

A project for the first hydrogen vehicles highway has been approved recently: it is a long passage leading from Germany to Italy with fuel stations every 100km.

Travelling from Munich to Modena – a city also known “the capital of engines”, since many of the factories of the famous Italian sports car makers Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and others are located here – on this new motorway could become a real opportunity within 2016. That is when the new “Hydrogen Highway” should be completed! It is a 650 km green corridor along the A22 highway, with 7 service stations, located every 100km. An eco-friendly zero-emission route, which could definitely ratify the clean fuel leadership on car market; hydrogen is actually willing to challenge petrol, diesel, natural gas and Lpg.

The EU has shown clear interest in the project; in fact its leading state, Germany, has been investing large amounts of money on hydrogen technology industry. The best possible predictions say that within 2030 there will be 16 million hydrogen vehicles driving in Europe.

There will be 4 service stations in Italy: in Carpi, Verona, Trento and Bolzano. The first station was inaugurated in June 2014 in Trento, thanks to a partnership between Brennero highway and Bolzano Scarl, an Institute for technological innovation (at the cost of 9,6 millions of euro).

It is strategically located in a very important traffic junction –close to the Brenner Highway, exit Bolzano South- and it produces, warehouses and distributes hydrogen. But it also works as an info point, giving the possibility to “experience technology” at first hand, through guided visits. You can even attend to lectures and educational events giving scientific reports about hydrogen technology in one of the conference hall.

The system can produce 180 Nm3 hydrogen per hour (1Nm3 H2 can replace 0,35 petrol and 0,3 diesel) and this means filling up to 800 fuel cell cars and 20 buses (for an average daily route of 40km for the cars and 180km for the buses). It is a good result in terms of environmental sustainability, as it eliminates 1.200.000kg of CO2 emissions and gives a clean alternative to 525.000l of petrol and 440.000l of diesel every year.

Hydrogen is extracted from renewable resources through electrolysis and later purified, compressed and momentarily stored in pressure tanks, in a gaseous state. The storage building, containing the equivalent of two days production (between 8000 and 11000Nm3), can be easily reached by lorries. Fuel distribution for hydrogen vehicles is quick and efficient thanks to the location of the dispenser, which is in the parking next to the production plant. A direct connection takes place between nearby stations and storage tanks.

Thanks to the H2 South Tirolo project, this Region reaffirms its groundbreaking role in renewable energies and sustainable mobility industry, aiming to find efficient alternatives to polluting, expensive and harmful fossil fuels. The Region can definitely play an outstanding role in renewable energy field, having water resources enough to feed 800 hydroelectric plants, which generate surplus energy.

H2 South Tirolo invests on hydrogen as the future fuel and aspires to gradually substitute fossil fuels, to improve resident people life quality and increase tourism prospects. Considering the growing energy demand, the risk for climatic changes and the constant rising energy costs, the main boost to searching renewable energies is the attempt to be self-sufficient.

H2 South Tirolo stations pave the way to new projects and research co-operations in hydrogen technology industry that need the help of research and development authorities. Hydrogen vehicles spread would surely demand for qualified operators, creating new occupational prospects. The province of Bolzano aims to build 24 service stations within 2020 (one every 20km), while Alto Adige has announced a much more ambitious goal: reaching zero-emission mobility and energy self-sufficiency within 2050.

Meanwhile, next year a new hydrogen service station should be launched in Trento, soon followed by Rosenheim, Verona and Carpi. At the end of the project, hydrogen vehicles will drive along the A22 highway with 600km of autonomy.

The war on fossil fuels has just started. We will find out in the near future if it is a successful one.