Fuel Cell Bus Study Tour to Germany

As a follow up to previous activities, the South African Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) together with BMWi and the Energy Partnership Secretariat decided to organize a delegation trip to study German experiences with piloting fuel cell buses. The tour took place from 14-22 October 2017 and brought the delegates to Berlin, Muenster/W, Gladbeck, Huerth, Duesseldorf and Stuttgart.

The objective of the study tour was to learn about approaches and experiences of piloting and deploying fuel cell buses, including the experiences of concrete pilot projects of cities such as Cologne and Stuttgart but also lessons learnt in regards to the enabling political and regulatory framework conditions.

In consideration of the objectives, the South African delegation comprised representatives of metropolitan municipalities (Cape Town, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay, Ekurhuleni) as well as representatives of departments (Department of Trade and Industry - the dti, Department of Energy – DoE, Department of Environmental Affairs - DEA), accompanied by GIZ staff.

In Berlin, the National Organisation Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology/ Nationale Organisation Wasserstoff (NOW GmbH) provided an overview about the market development for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in the German transportation sector as well as the energy sector. NOW is responsible for the coordination and management of the National Innovation Programme (NIP) and the Electromobility Model Regions Programme of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVi). The German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) joined this meeting, so that the delegation could also receive information about the political and regulatory framework of the introduction and market development of fuel cell technology.

To learn from practical experiences, the delegation visited three German municipalities: While Stuttgart and Hürth by Cologne are some of the pioneer cities, which introduced the first fuel cell buses more than five years ago, the city of Münster is rather a “follower” and still in an early stage, currently procuring its first two fuel cell buses. In Cologne and Stuttgart the delegates had an opportunity to travel on fuel cell buses and to explore the operations of hydrogen refueling stations; in Stuttgart the bus depot and the workshops were also part of the programme.

As networks play a crucial role as promotors and facilitators in the market development process, the delegation met HyCologne as well as the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Network of Northrhine-Westphalia (NRW). Both networks provided information about their mandate, structure and fields of activity. It was good to talk to both organizations, as they have different structures: While HyCologne is a bottom-up organization, financed through membership fees, the Network in NRW is part of the Energy Agency NRW and financed by the government of this federal state (province).

The delegates did not only meet with government, networks and public transport operators, but also with private companies, including Areva H2Gen, Hydrogenics, Hyref, McPhy Energy and Total. In Stuttgart, Daimler shared the company’s bus strategy for the next five years with the delegation.

The delegation appreciated not only the meetings but also the practical part, including the visits of fuel stations and of the Hydrogenics workshop/ lab, where they could see fuel cell production. The tour through the workshop and the depot in Stuttgart/ SSB was obviously a highlight for the participants and very impressing. For all, the study tour helped to feel “more comfortable to talk about fuel cell buses and fuel cell technology”. The participants would like to keep a “continuous link to what is going on in Germany and Europe”.

South Africa and Germany will continue cooperation and exchange on this promising topic in the future.

You can download a study on Hydrogen Research Activities in South Africa here.

The participants in a room at the table

The participants in a room at the table

Impression of the Fuel Cell Bus Study Tour.

Group picture with the participants in front of a buliding

Group picture with the participants in front of a buliding

The participants of the tour.