Denmark’s Everfuel, the only company operating hydrogen refuelling stations in the country, has announced that it will “close or pause, and if possible, divest or repurpose” its light-duty H2 refuelling stations serving passenger cars.
This includes a complete shutdown of three stations in Brabrand, Kolding and Copenhagen, and a pause in operations “until further notice” at Prags Boulevard in the capital and at the Port of Aarhus.
“The first-generation car fuelling stations are unprofitable and have reached technical end-of-life and will be discontinued without any material financial implications,” Everfuel said in its second-quarter results report.
According to the Danish Car Importers association, there were 147 fuel-cell cars on Danish roads at the end of last year, with only one sold so far this year — all of which now have no means to refuel.
Most of these belong to Copenhagen-based taxi operator Drivr, which at the beginning of last year launched its fleet of 100 Toyota Mirai vehicles, with contracts in place with Everfuel to supply them with hydrogen for five years.
We can't justify throwing more money at subsidising hydrogen alone
Everfuel CEO Jacob Krogsgaard
Drivr tells Hydrogen Insight that it has grounded all of these hydrogen-powered taxis and is “in dialogue with Everfuel” as well as several other companies on a new source of fuel.
Everfuel CEO Jacob Krogsgaard told Danish website Energywatch: “Green hydrogen production in Denmark is not ready yet. Neither the electrolysis, the tanker trucks nor the stations have been as mature as we expected when we launched our ambitions. Combined with the fact that there has been no volume from vehicle manufacturers, this has made it difficult to find the business model for operating hydrogen stations.
“We are talking to customers and partners about whether we can see a way to keep things running. But we can’t justify throwing more money at subsidising hydrogen alone.”
He added: “There is no doubt that hydrogen cars are not an option in the short term and that electric cars will win the vast majority of the passenger car market. Because that’s clearly where both car manufacturers and politicians are focusing their attention right now. We’ve also always said that as long as batteries can do the job, they should keep doing it.”
But Krogsgaard also said that there may still be room for hydrogen cars in the future.
“The challenge for electric cars will not be the batteries, but the limitations of the grid. When it starts to become a problem for the grid to deliver the green power at the time we want to charge, then hydrogen may experience a renaissance.”
While a sixth hydrogen refuelling station had been set up at electrolyser maker Nel’s offices in Herning, Denmark, Everfuel tells Hydrogen Insight that this station is not owned by them and therefore its operations are not its decision. Nel also confirms that the station is only available for demonstration, rather than to act as a publicly available refuelling site.
Everfuel — which also produces green hydrogen — has also closed all three stations in Norway, although this market is also served by another retailer called Hynion.
However, Everfuel’s Heinenoord station for buses in the Netherlands will remain open, and it will continue construction on the Frankfurt and Wuppertal bus stations in Germany.
“We want to focus on where the market is readily available,” a spokesperson for Everfuel said, citing Germany as “the first market for hydrogen mobility applications”.
This is because Germany has set greenhouse gas quotas on transport, awarding certificates for electric charging and hydrogen refuelling stations that can then be traded to fossil fuel suppliers.
As such, it is “more cost-effective to deliver [hydrogen] to German dispensers rather than other dispensers”, the spokesperson said, noting that similar schemes would have to be put in place in the Nordics for hydrogen mobility to be viable.
Krogsgaard explained to Energywatch: “The certificates are worth about as much as the hydrogen itself, so you’d have to be the dumbest businessman in the world not to realise that it should be shipped to Germany to get a return on investment rather than just keeping it in Denmark.”
Everfuel had last year received €7.67m ($8.18m) in grants from the EU Connecting Europe Facility to build eight refuelling stations along a core route of the planned Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), including five in Denmark, two in Sweden and one in Germany. Hydrogen Insight has reached out to ask about the status of this project.
The company had also received 7.4m Danish krone ($1m) in a government grant towards developing a mobile refuelling unit with Nel.
Beyond differing subsidy schemes, Everfuel also cited recent trailer leakages, which put the majority of its refuelling sites out of commission for months, as another factor behind its decision.
But a major reason for its pivot away from refuelling stations for passenger vehicles is the passage of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR).
AFIR has generally been lauded as a positive step for hydrogen mobility, since it mandates that member states have to ensure that publicly available gaseous H2 filling stations, capable of serving both heavy-duty and light-duty vehicles, are by 2030 set up in every “urban node” and every 200km along the core routes of the TEN-T.
But the regulation also requires that these refuelling stations have a one tonne per day capacity, with 700-bar dispensers. Everfuel confirms to Hydrogen Insight that the stations that have been closed or paused did not comply “location-wise, and not capacity-wise either”.
Everfuel has therefore decided to focus its efforts on developing “AFIR-ready sites” with higher capacity and modular scaling potential, such as at the Port of Aarhus site, the bus stations in Germany, and facilities under development in Norway and Sweden.
However, final investment decision on new sites will hinge on “future heavy-duty station developments remain subject to availability of vehicles, capable station hardware, customer commitments and public financial backing”.
The Danish company has not ruled out “non-AFIR compliant truck and bus station developments where long-term contract commitments with end-users are feasible” — although it tells Hydrogen Insight that these are “not our focus, and would need to have a solid, self-sustaining business case”.
Similarly, “light-duty stations will only be developed against profitable long-term contracts and where there is a strong strategic fit”, according to the results report.
“We see [a business case] as hard for passenger cars in the private sector,” the Everfuel spokesperson admits, although he argues that private mobility could eventually become viable based on the rollout of infrastructure to support heavy-duty vehicles.
The company is also moving forward with its plans to develop green hydrogen production projects, such as the first phase of HySynergy, which it plans to bring on line in Q1 2024.
This facility is also set to be the first owned by a €200m ($213m) joint venture between Everfuel and Hy24, although this deal is yet to close.
Updated to include comment from Danish taxi firm DRIVR.