The German government has spent almost €500m of taxpayers’ money on subsidies for hydrogen cars and associated filling stations since 2007 — a situation that has been described as “absurd” and “pointless” by the national taxpayers’ federation, Bund der Steuerzahler (BdSt).

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“It is undisputed that hydrogen cars are much less efficient than battery-powered electric cars. Nevertheless, politicians have been pumping hundreds of millions of euros into hydrogen subsidies for cars for years. Stop this absurd use of taxpayers' money,” BdSt president Reiner Holznagel told German newspaper Die Welt.

“Hydrogen is far too valuable to be wasted in cars… We are therefore calling on the federal government to completely and immediately end the pointless subsidies for hydrogen cars at all government levels.”

A recent analysis by the group’s research institute, the DSi, concluded: “At least in some areas, the use of hydrogen is... technologically questionable. This definitely includes the passenger car sector.”

Using green hydrogen, made from renewable energy, is a “waste of resources” due to the energy losses involved in converting clean electricity into hydrogen and back again inside a fuel-cell car.

Reiner Holznagel, president of the German taxpayers' federation. Photo: Ullstein Bild/Getty

According to the BdSt, at least €450m of taxpayers’ money have been spent on subsidising hydrogen cars and their refuelling — in addition to EU funding that German taxpayers indirectly contribute to.

Despite this massive investment, only 2,346 fuel-cell cars are on German roads, according to the National Organisation for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NOW) — amounting to more than €190,000 of German subsidies per car (when using the €450m figure).

Only 168 fuel-cell cars were sold in Germany in the first five months of this year — fewer than two per hydrogen filling station (there are currently 91) — compared to almost 168,000 battery electric vehicles sold in the same period.

NOW’s demands for several hundred million more euros of government subsidies by 2026 for hydrogen cars and associated refuelling by 2026 “should under no circumstances be met”, said the DSi analysis.

The German Ministry of Transport says that about €242m flowed directly into hydrogen passenger cars between 2007 and 2022, with around €210m made available for the construction of H2 filling stations.

Those are just part of the “hardly manageable number of funding measures from the federal government”, the BdSt says.

Ironically, the EU’s Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation — which requires Germany and the other member states to install public hydrogen filling stations for cars and trucks in every “urban node” and every 200km along core transport routes — became law earlier today (Friday).