On 17 September 2012, the European Hydrogen Road Tour made a stop at the Klimamobility Fair in Bolzano, Italy.

The event offered a VIP test drive with all four vehicle types (Mercedes Benz F-CELL, Hyundai ix35 FCEV, Honda FCX Clarity and Toyota FCV-adv), which were heavily utilised by VIPs and students alike. The major activity however were the presentations disseminating messages of South Tyrol’s political and industrial commitment together with H2moves Scandinavia’s vehicle and infrastructure demonstration achievements in Scandinavia.

Key messages were contributed by South Tyrol’s president Luis Durnwalder, the Mayor of the City of Bolzano and the General Manager and Chief Engineer of the A22 Brenner Autobahn operating company. Backed by a presentation by IIT on the motivation for urgent action to make South Tyrol’s mobility more sustainable. With the Brenner Autobahn being the major source of emissions (local pollutants, GHG-emissions and noise), the politicians and industry described a picture in which hydrogen operated fuel cell vehicles could become a major component of a sustainable everyday mobility, providing high quality individual transport for the region. 29 million tourists every year use the Brenner Autobahn on their way across the Alps, either to stay in South Tyrol, a major tourist area, or continuing further south into Italy and back.

The plan is to establish a sequence of hydrogen fuelling stations to connect central Europe, from Germany via Innsbruck, to northern Italy. In addition, it had recently been decided to acquire five fuel cell buses from Evobus to be operated on the roads of Bolzano. Apparently, the bus provider had impressed the region by paying specific attention to pass an incline test in rather challenging mountainous environment.

Politics has promised to support this activity, either by funding the market introduction or by creating the relevant accompanying measures (preferential treatment of electric vehicles in otherwise restricted inner city traffic).

H2moves Scandinavia then reported from its positive learnings from using fuel cells and related refuelling infrastructure in everyday life. Among the results were reliability of hardware and full acceptance by customers, the insight to build local actor networks by demonstration projects and the urgent need to build a fuelling station network.

The consecutive VIP panel discussion, moderated by Walter Huber, General Manager of IIT and a knowledgeable person in hydrogen and fuel cells, revealed further insights. One topic was the use of local energy resources, i.e. renewable hydropower in South Tyrol, which should specifically aim at diminishing the region’s import of fossil energy, in particular mineral oil. The automobile manufacturers spoke of their responsibility to provide sufficient numbers of vehicles to sustain the refuelling infrastructure being built. They also showed awareness to help solving the environmental challenges, both in the Brenner Autobahn valleys and in the cities, which draw from tourism as one of the major income source in the region. Several speakers found continuity to be a key ingredient to introduce hydrogen and fuel cells in transport.

The conference drew 140 out of 170 invited guests into to the meeting venue and about 40 journalists attended the event, even though the weather was challenging with hard rain. A vital sign of success was that the organisers, without exception, received only positive feedback.

Read full press release here