In view of the recent achievements of the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands, with support of Linde Benelux, in building the FORZE IV record breaking fuel cell powered formula race car, the EHA found the opportunity to look into Linde’s involvement with such university activities and receive the company’s perspective on developments in the hydrogen industry in Europe.

The EHA secretariat sat down with member of the board, Jaco Reijerkerk of Linde AG. Jaco Reijerkerk is currently Head of Business Development Linde Gas Benelux , and part of Clean Energy Business Development Western Europe  Linde AG. Although he began his professional career as a trainee and part-time researcher at DaimlerChrysler, he then progressed to Linde AG to later become General Manager Global Programme and Strategy in Innovation Management – Hydrogen Solutions.

EHA: Linde has been involved in supporting a number of university related activities like supporting the FORZE IV, and the Shell Eco-Marathon. What is the company’s objective from these activities? Do you see a trend in young adult’s interests in Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies?

Mr. Reijerkerk: These are our customers and future employees, we don’t have to motivate them; these students are already very much excited about the topic. We think that the  issue has gained more and more recognition, and more students are recognizing the potential of this enormous technology.

Y0ung adults are less constrained by “business as usual” and have more freedom to look at new, innovative things.  Then we as Linde, really enjoy working with them and helping them, giving them some practical expertise and doing it in a safe manner.

With these events they meet our company and hopefully take back some good experiences.

EHA: This past June, Linde and Daimler announced 20 more hydrogen stations in to be built in Germany, and commercialization of hydrogen vehicles to begin in 2014. As you are responsible for the Benelux, how do you see hydrogen rollout coming to play in the next 5 years in comparison to Germany?

Mr. Reijerkerk : Benelux may to some extent follow the Germany example. Important Car markets may be taking the same steps, as German car makers move forward. The success of the German car industry is very much dependant on innovation, and developing the technologies of the future. Germany is a much more logical place to start the development because German car makers are at the forefront of this technology.

Benelux countries have a strong trade relationship with German (automotive) industry.  Because of the trade balance and corresponding sales traffic between Germany and for instance Netherlands. Netherlands will most likely be one of the early followers behind Germany. On top of that citizens in the region are generally environmentally conscious and particularly open to trying new things.

The first cars in 2014 will most likely be deployed in California and Germany. In the case of the Netherlands the cars need to come first, before infrastructure. Once the Netherlands has 20-40 cars then the hydrogen supply industry will follow. If there is some level of confidence that the cars are being supplied and built then there is much more willingness to build up the infrastructure. The Netherlands has the advantage that it is such a small country, so you don’t need so much in terms of infrastructure. We travel from one city to the next quite easily and one station can service a lot of people.

However, in the Netherlands it is still unclear on a political level the strategy for clean vehicles, hydrogen and electric. We need a clear message.

EHA: What are the current barriers for hydrogen today?

Mr. Reijerkerk : We need hydrogen in local and EU legislation to be defined as a fuel.Hydrogen in local legislation is not recognized as a fuel but as a dangerous good. Hydrogen is now treated as a chemical compound instead of a fuel like Gasoline, Liquid Petroleum Gas, or Natural Gas. Many regulations that are referring to fuel have no reference to hydrogen.

EHA: What is the main message that you would like to convey to the Industry, and the public?

Mr. Reijerkerk : The message has always been “Start. Start Building.”

10-15 years ago, working at companies like Daimler, I was convinced that Fuel Cell technology could become an integral part of production cars. Thus I am very happy that the action is being put forth, by Linde and Daimler, to move forward now. 2014 is not that far away, car makers have to act today to not be behind.

We are now at the situation were we can fill a vehicle within 3 minutes with 5 kg of hydrogen. We now have SAE standard for filling cars and a reliable metering system. So the technology is comfortable for drivers. The center of gravity has moved from tackling the technical hurdles, to putting into commercial use.

Overall, Linde has conveyed the message that we are very supportive of Hydrogen as a fuel. Ionic compressors for gas, and Cryo compressors for liquid hydrogen are key elements for infrastructure. We believe these will be one of the main instruments to make this commercial.

Because everything will be improved with time, we are not finished with technology but it has now reached the level where you can put it on the side of the road. The first actions where we used hydrogen as a fuel was in the 1980’s when car manufacturers were trying everything to face the oil crisis.  The past 10 years Linde has worked on this issue in a much more strategic way.  It is a sustainable solution and we can stand behind it as a company.

Besides, what better if you can help make the zero emission car a reality?