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Petrol Opens First Hydrogen Filling Station in the Country

Lesce, 10 September (STA) - Slovenia got its first hydrogen filling station in Lesce (NW) on Tuesday, which the executors of the project, energy company Petrol and the Centre of Excellence for Low-Carbon Technologies, hope will encourage a shift to what they see as the energy source of the future.

Marta Svoljšak of Petrol, which initiated the EU-backed EUR 0.5m project, explained that idea was to gain experience in setting up such infrastructure, set an example and bridge some of the reservations that people feel when hearing of hydrogen.

Slovenia is one of the pioneers when it comes to filling stations for alternative energy sources. Petrol has already opened 64 stations with liquefied petroleum gas, six stations for electric cars and also soon plans to open a station with compressed natural gas.

The market for hydrogen vehicles is still very small and only two such cars are presently used in Slovenia, one for personal use and one by the military.

"During the development there was a polemics about there not being hydrogen vehicles because there is no filling station. Now there is one," said Svoljšak Jerman, who sees a lot of potential for hydrogen vehicles in public transport in cities.

The vehicles are still too expensive for mass use, as prices stand at around EUR 120,000. However, mass production is planned as of 2015 which could lower the price to an affordable EUR 40,000, Milan Gaberšček of the Centre of Excellence for Low-Carbon Technologies explained.

Another issue is setting up a system for mass production of hydrogen and determining its price. Presently a kilo of compressed hydrogen, which suffices for around 100 kilometres, costs between five and 20 US dollars. In Austria, which has two filling stations, it costs EUR 9, which means its use is not cheaper than that of fossil fuel.

Hydrogen-powered vehicles meanwhile outstrip electric cars when it comes to their reach, as around 500 kilometres can be made with a full tank.

There are also no major shortcomings when compared to petrol-powered cars, with fuel efficiency even being almost 100% higher than with conventional internal combustion engines.

Petrol chairman Tomaž Berločnik agrees that hydrogen is the future, announcing another filling station is being planned for Velenje. Lesce was chosen for the first one because it is located in the Alpine region, where renewables are high on the agenda.

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