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‘China is the world leader in hydrogen refuelling stations, but it is still way behind its 2025 targets’: analyst

'China is the world leader in hydrogen refuelling stations, but it is still way behind its 2025 targets': analyst

China has built more hydrogen refuelling stations than any other country, with 354 already operational at the end of 2023, according to Interact Analysis. But despite this, the UK-based analyst warns that the country may struggle to meet its 2025 targets.

“Compared with a construction target of more than 1,200 hydrogen stations by 2025, progress is lagging behind and the number of HRS [hydrogen refuelling stations] in operation accounted for only 30% of the target by the end of 2023,” writes principal analyst Shirly Zhu on the company’s website.

While another 50 hydrogen refuelling stations are currently under construction, this would still mean China is less than 50% of the way towards its 2025 target.

Thirteen provinces and municipalities already have more than ten H2 filling stations in operation, with Guangdong the leader with 68 sites. Meanwhile Shandong, Zhejiang, Hebei, Jiangsu and Hubei all have more than 20 hydrogen fueling stations in operation.

However, Zhu noted that while some provinces with relatively high 2025 targets, such as Guangdong (200 stations), Zhejiang (50 stations) and Anhui (30 stations), have surpassed the national average, the only province to have already met its target — Tianjin — had set a low target of five sites.

In addition to Tianjin, only two provinces, Zhejiang and Hunan (ten stations each), have built more than 40% of their targeted hydrogen refuelling stations.

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Zhu noted that each province may dynamically revise its planning targets based on the actual deployment of fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) as well as refuelling sites.

On average, China has 58 FCEVs per H2 filling station. However, some provinces, such as Henan and Shanghai, have nearly double and triple this ratio, respectively, despite lagging in refuelling station buildout with less than 20 each.

Zhu also highlighted that last year, the provinces of Hebei and Shandong “saw exponential growth in registrations of fuel cell commercial vehicles, becoming the top two provinces for fuel cell commercial vehicles (each had registration of more than 1,000 vehicles)”, which is likely to spur on station buildout in the coming year.

However, some provinces, such as Zhejiang, Hubei, Jiangsu, Sichuan, and Inner Mongolia, have much lower ratios of vehicles per refuelling site than the national average. In Zhejiang’s case, hydrogen refuelling units had mainly been built as part of multi-fuel complexes, whereas Inner Mongolia saw its H2 filling stations constructed alongside renewable hydrogen megaprojects.

But beyond wildly varying demand from FCEVs between provinces, Interact Analysis also notes that current regulations could present a hurdle for rapidly building enough H2 filling stations by the end of next year.

“Furthermore, on top of the high construction and operation costs, difficulties and delays in obtaining certificates for operation are also major challenges for HRS [hydrogen refuelling station] development,” wrote Zhu.

“It is clear that problems relating to ‘hydrogen fuel cell vehicles without stations’ and ‘HRS without certificate for operation’ need to be addressed in order to promote hydrogen vehicle and infrastructure deployments.”