German taxpayer association rejects government LDV hydrogen spend

BDST president Reiner Holznagel objects to past and potentially future federal government investment into H2 cars

German taxpayer association rejects government LDV hydrogen spend
Backlash against the German political establishment's hydrogen enthusiasm

The German taxpayer’s association, or BDST, president Reiner Holznagel is demanding no more state investment in hydrogen as a fuel for light duty vehicles (LDVs). From 2007 to 2022, Germany’s federal government spent €450mn ($473mn) on the development of hydrogen cars and filling stations.

Holznagel, however, views it as an “absurd” use of taxpayer’s money. “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,” he says.

“Hydrogen is far too valuable to be wasted in cars — without any prospects! That is why we are calling on the federal government to completely and immediately end the pointless subsidies for hydrogen cars at all government levels,” Holznagel continues.

The BDST has been hydrogen-sceptic for some years. In a report from September 2020, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, it asserted that “anyone who is facing bankruptcy because of Corona does not need a new photovoltaic system on the roof, no energy-saving renovation and certainly no hydrogen car in the distant future”.

And earlier this month, its research arm, the German taxpayer’s institute, published a report fully supporting the association’s stance, saying, “at least in some areas, the use of hydrogen is... technologically questionable”. “This definitely includes the car sector,” it says.

“Demands from the federally owned National Organisation for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NOW) for additional subsidies for the car sector amounting to several hundred million euros by 2026 should under no circumstances be met”, the report concludes.

Political will

Germany’s politicians remain resolutely pro-hydrogen, admittedly not specifically in the LDV segment. The country’s official hydrogen strategy site says that “the use of hydrogen offers a particularly high level of potential for large and heavy vehicles (e.g., in road haulage, air traffic, and maritime transport), either in fuel cells or as a feedstock for renewable electricity-based fuels, as battery-electric drives are not suitable for application throughout”.

And several ministers reiterated their support when the national hydrogen strategy was updated in July. “We need hydrogen directly for the fuel cell, but also for the production of synthetic fuels, which will be indispensable for climate neutrality in transport,” says federal minister of transport Volker Wissing.

“Hydrogen is the missing piece in the energy transition puzzle. With this strategy, we are setting the pace for market ramp-up in the sector,” adds federal research minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger.

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