Where to refuel a hydrogen-powered car in Bratislava?

The capital’s public transport operator plans to extend add hydrogen buses to its fleet.

The first re-fuelling of a hydrogen car in Vlčie Hrdlo, Bratislava.  The first re-fuelling of a hydrogen car in Vlčie Hrdlo, Bratislava. (Source: Courtesy of Messer Transgas)

Without hydrogen refuelling stations, nobody will buy hydrogen-powered cars. But without a fleet of hydrogen cars to supply, nobody has an incentive build hydrogen refuelling stations. Attempts are being made to break this vicious circle in Bratislava. A year ago, the first public hydrogen filling station was put into operation in the Slovak capital. For now, it remains the only one.

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Hydrogen production is very energy-intensive and technologically demanding, but building infrastructure needs to start somewhere,” Michal Paľa, general director of Messer Tatragas, said on February 18, 2022, at the ceremonial opening of the hydrogen filling station in Vlčie Hrdlo, in premises rented from the Slovnaft oil refinery. The first car to fill up was a privately owned Toyota Mirai.

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Ján Weiterschütz, president of the National Hydrogen Association of Slovakia (NVAS), describes construction of the necessary infrastructure for hydrogen refuelling in Slovakia as being a lengthy process.

“For the creation of the first hydrogen filling stations, it is necessary to obtain sufficient financial support, overcome the demanding permitting process for the construction itself, and ensure regular sales of hydrogen, preferably to fuel buses, trucks or other vehicles and equipment, e.g. forklifts,” Weiterschütz told The Slovak Spectator.

Juraj Petrovič, application manager at Messer Tatragas, admits that the bureaucracy around construction of a hydrogen filling station is very demanding – far more so than for an electric charging station, for example.

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“This is also because hydrogen, for example, is not yet defined [by law] as fuel. This means that we can supply it only as a ‘technical gas’,” explained Petrovič. This brings problems in the approval process.

Related article Slovakia betting on hydrogen Read more 

In the near future, another hydrogen filling station will open in Trenčín, on the premises of the Dalitrans company, Weiterschütz noted. Unlike the Vlčie Hrdlo station, at which the filling pressure is 200-bar, this one will be able to fill tanks at a pressure of 350 bars.

“The pressure of 350 bars is suitable for buses and freight transport,” said Weiterschütz.

Weiterschütz estimates that there are only four or five hydrogen-powered passenger cars in Slovakia, something he blames on the absence of refuelling infrastructure. He considers the range of hydrogen cars currently on offer as being sufficient, even though he hopes for a wider one.

“It will come with higher demand, and this will come after a core network of hydrogen refuelling stations is built around the world,” said Weiterschütz.

Not a lucrative business yet

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