Switzerland gets its first hydrogen filling station

Most hydrogen fuel cell cars, like this one shown at an auto show in the United States, power their motors by combining hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, with just heat and water as the by-products. EMPA is also working on mixed hydrogen/gas vehicles. Keystone

The Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) has installed the nation’s first hydrogen fuelling station for fuel cell cars at their research campus in Dübendorf, canton Zurich.

This content was published on October 6, 2016 - 20:16 and agencies

The new pump will be used by experimental vehicles and privately owned hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and closely precedes the unveiling of Switzerland’s first public hydrogen filling station, which will open in early November. That site is being launched through a cooperation between companies Coop and H2 Energy AG.

The new pump is specially designed to fill the compact reservoirs of passenger vehicles quickly, EMPA said on Thursday. EMPA’s new pump can deliver hydrogen at a pressure of 700 bars, which means it is possible to fill a hydrogen fuel cell car in two to three minutes. EMPA already has a station designed to fill large utility vehicles with hydrogen, but it is not adapted for cars and only operates at a pressure of 350 bars.

EMPA says that it aims to gather experience with hydrogen as fuel, and it is targeting the 20% of cars in Switzerland that travel over 20,000 kilometres (12,427 miles) per year. These are, in effect, responsible for about half of all kilometres travelled.

These heavy users are unlikely to switch to renewable energy sources unless the alternative fuel can offer sufficient autonomy – i.e., can allow the cars to travel far without having to stop and refuel often. According to EMPA, this is a requirement that battery-powered electric cars cannot meet in the near enough future, whereas hydrogen fuel allows cars to travel up to 600 kilometres without stopping to refuel.

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