‘Gaining knowledge about hydrogen in mobility is now a priority.’

  • Contenttype:
    • Interview
  • Themes:
    • Energy
    • Maritime

The future of hydrogen lies in Rotterdam, as it’s the very place where the Hydro Generation has identified and seized opportunities to write history. The Hydro Generation is a group of forerunners who see Rotterdam as the ultimate place to realise innovative CO2-neutral solutions. For example, Annemiek Luimes is committed to the application of hydrogen in mobility, such as hydrogen pilot projects in the cities vehicle fleet.

The Hydro Generation, portret Annemiek Luimes city of Rotterdam
Annemiek Luimes – © Eric Fecken

Hydrogen cargo bikes? No, there won’t be any, smiles Annemiek Luimes, sustainability adviser for the City of Rotterdam. “Hydrogen lends itself specifically to larger and heavier transport, such as the gully emptier that has been in our fleet since 2021: a truck with a suction system that cleans manholes in the city.”

World first

The gully emptier was a world first. The truck was developed together with the market because it required very specific technology. “The technology was so new that the truck regularly failed to work or stood still for a while. Rotterdam is a testing ground for all kinds of CO2-neutral solutions. The start-up problems with the hydrogen-powered gully emptier were only logical and very instructive. We’re gaining experience that will be invaluable for the future.”

It goes to the heart of what Luimes believes in: giving every sustainable alternative a chance. “We’re in an experimental phase, aiming for a sustainable fleet by 2030. In this phase, we shouldn’t exclude anything. Even though electric solutions are often the first things we think of, hydrogen could be the missing link.” Because, at first glance, hydrogen doesn’t seem to be the ideal alternative for the municipality’s vehicle fleet. “For now, we’re on the fence: electric where we can, hydrogen where we have to,” the consultant explains. “That’s because you have to produce hydrogen. It requires a lot of electricity, and you also lose electricity during the conversion process. So it’s actually an extra step compared to electric vehicles.”

‘Hydrogen could be the missing link.’

Hydrogen pick-up truck

There are still plenty of advantages associated with hydrogen to further explore its merits as a fuel. “Especially for heavier transport and longer distances, hydrogen is effective. Batteries can’t handle that. The same applies to trucks that need to perform multiple functions, such as the gully emptier, waste collection trucks, or the pick-up truck launched in May.” This Warrego pick-up truck from H2X is used by foresters, including in the Kralingse Bos. The truck can travel about 400 kilometres on a full hydrogen tank. Just like the gully emptier, the only thing that leaves the exhaust is water.

Increasing congestion on the electric grid is another reason for the municipality to set its sights on hydrogen. “Charging your electric trucks then becomes problematic. Hydrogen can be made in one place and then used in another, such as where there is a lot of grid congestion.” Luimes also considers the crucial vital processes within the municipality; charging takes more time than hydrogen refuelling. This can affect operations and the choice of electricity or hydrogen. “Ideally, we would use a mix, to guarantee continuity.”

There’s still plenty to do, according to Luimes. Refuelling hydrogen, for example, can only be done in a few places in the region. Currently, drivers must travel to Rhoon, but soon, refuelling will also be possible in Capelle aan den IJssel. “Refuelling stations only open when there is demand, whereas investors are waiting for more accessible refuelling stations. Breaking that circle is essential. The municipality can play a role in this as a launching customer.”

‘I’m working on the bigger picture, something that transcends me.’

Green hydrogen scarcity

Then there’s the challenge of green hydrogen, which is scarce and expensive. “Running a truck on grey hydrogen is as polluting as driving the cleanest diesel. Fully committing to hydrogen only makes sense when it’s completely green, but getting there requires knowledge and skills. That’s why innovation is important now, even if it means not yet using green hydrogen,” Luimes argues.

Now that she’s pregnant, a sustainable future is extremely close to the consultant’s heart. “I was already working on it a lot, but now I realise more than ever: it’s about our children’s future.” In this, she feels part of the Hydro Generation. Luimes: “I’m working on the bigger picture, something that transcends me, with colleagues who feel the same way. Working in such a passionate environment is very stimulating. The sense of urgency makes us get things done. Hopefully, there will be enough green hydrogen production by 2030, and we’ll be a lot of successful pilots further.”

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Rotterdam: Europe’s Hydrogen Hub

To read more about Rotterdam as Europe’s Hydrogen Hub and the forerunners who make Rotterdam Europe’s Hydrogen Hub, go to Rotterdam: Europe’s Hydrogen Hub.

Want to meet the Hydro Generation?

Curious about Rotterdam’s journey with regard to hydrogen? Would you like to meet the Hydro Generation?


Please contact Lieuwe Brouwer: lm.brouwer@rotterdam.nl

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