Using hydrogen filling stations needs to be learned

H2Mobility, an association of several companies, wants to extend the network of hydrogen filling stations in Germany with the “50 filling stations program“. This initiative is also supported by the German Federal Ministry of Transport. Within the scope of the accompanying research of this program Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI has also investigated how experienced and new customers assessed filling up with hydrogen. The acceptance study, which was commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Transport, shows: Refueling a hydrogen vehicle is assessed as safe and simple, for new customers, however, it is sometimes a challenge. Experienced customers wish for the technology to increase in quality. The findings have now been published in the journal “HZwei“.

The “50 filling stations program“, financed by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure and conducted by industry, intends to expand the network of hydrogen filling stations. The program is part of the National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Innovation Program (NIP) and is coordinated by the National Organization for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NOW). The accompanying research investigates the users’ perspective as well as ecological, economic, regulative and technological aspects for establishing and operating hydrogen filling stations.

In order to investigate the users’ acceptance the project team conducted refueling tests with experienced customers and inexperienced test customers at a hydrogen filling station in Berlin. After the tests the participants discussed their experiences when refueling and gave an overall assessment of the hydrogen technology in focus groups.

Refueling with hydrogen can be compared with filling up with petrol, it does, however, take a few minutes longer. Compared to the long charging duration of electric vehicles the short time it takes to fill up with hydrogen is, however, an important advantage of this technology. The participants assessed this positively. The test customers advocated that refueling with hydrogen is similar to refilling with petrol or diesel which makes it easy to get used to. As the tank is filled up with hydrogen at a pressure of 700 bar and at a temperature of -40 degrees Celsius the fuel nozzle cools down notably – this cold and the resulting condensing water was perceived negatively. Although slight technical problems occurred most participants perceived refueling with hydrogen as simple and uncomplicated. Most did not have safety concerns when refueling. The experienced customers also said that possible concerns had evaporated over time.

In order to further support and disseminate the technology particularly the experienced customers demanded further expanding the filling station network: Primarily the gaps in the middle of Germany should be closed so that all parts of the country can be reached. Due to the low network expansion the technology is assessed as not practical. The high vehicle costs might be another argument for private customers against purchasing a hydrogen vehicle.

Uta Schneider, project leader and principal author of this article sums up, “All in all it can be said that hydrogen technology is perceived positively, even if the practical implementation is challenging. To disseminate the technology further it is important to simplify handling the fuel nozzle and to improve the technical reliability of the fueling stations. Particularly inexperienced new customers can become confused by technical problems.“

The article containing the full results, which has been published in the current issue of “HZwei“, ( can be downloaded at

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI analyzes the origins and impacts of innovations. We research the short- and long-term developments of innovation processes and the impacts of new technologies and services on society. On this basis, we are able to provide our clients from industry, politics and science with recommendations for action and perspectives for key decisions. Our expertise is founded on our scientific competence as well as an interdisciplinary and systemic research approach.

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