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EXCLUSIVE | Hydrogen vehicle registrations are flatlining across most of Europe — with hundreds more filling stations on the way

EXCLUSIVE | Hydrogen vehicle registrations are flatlining across most of Europe — with hundreds more filling stations on the way

Registrations of new hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCEVs) are flatlining across most European markets, a Hydrogen Insight investigation can reveal, despite various companies’ plans to bring scores of new H2 refuelling stations (HRSs) on line in several countries — and new EU legislation that mandates the construction of hundreds of new refuelling spots by 2027.

Data from every European country with at least one HRS shows that in all but three, registrations of FCEV have either crashed or stagnated. (Note: registrations can include vehicles purchased by dealerships that have not yet been sold to a business or individual.)

As previously reported by Hydrogen Insight, Europe’s largest hydrogen car market, Germany, saw an almost 70% reduction in new FCEV registrations in 2023.

However, the data from France shows that the country is becoming one of the most dynamic FCEV markets in Europe — although hydrogen vehicle sales are still tiny compared to those of battery-electric equivalents — with the UK and Czechia the only other European nations to have seen more than ten FCEV registrations per HRS last year.

In Switzerland, which has one of the largest concentrations of HRSs in Europe, total new registrations for FCEVs fell by 50%, with just 28 passenger cars and ten commercial vehicles registered last year, the Swiss Federal Office for Statistics tells Hydrogen Insight.

In comparison, the central European state registered 40,507 battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) in 2023.

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FCEV sales in Europe and other key markets in 2023

Country Hydrogen refuelling stations (HRS) Fuel-cell vehicles registered in 2023 Vehicles per HRS
Germany 88 263 2.99
Netherlands 19 29 (Jan-Sep only) 1.53
Switzerland 15 38 2.53
France 11 306 (sales) 27.82
Belgium 7 12 1.71
Austria 6 10 1.66
Sweden 5 2 (cars only) 0.4
UK 5 65 13
Denmark 4 (see story) 1 0.25
Czechia 2 21 (cars only) 10.5
Norway 2 2 1
Iceland 2 1 0.5
Latvia 1 0 0
Italy 1 0 0
Other key markets
Japan 175 422 2.41
South Korea 167
(incl. private RFSs)
4,635 27.75
China 88 6,000 (approx)* 68.18
US (all California) 61
(incl. private RFSs)
2,979 48.83
Australia 8 6 0.75

Compiled by Hydrogen Insight from more than 20 sources

This runs counter to the argument that the reason for the low uptake of FCEVs is the lack of hydrogen filling stations; Switzerland has 15 refuelling stations already, most of which are located in the populous north and west of the small Alpine state, according to the website, which maps RFSs across Europe.

Another European refuelling hotspot, the Netherlands, also recorded a significant drop, although the only data available runs from January to the end of September 2023. During this period, just 29 FCEVs were registered (nine of which were buses), according to the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, compared to 122 over the same amount of time the previous year — a drop of 76%. During this time, there were 10,292 BEVs registered.

The fall comes despite the presence of 19 H2 filling stations in the small country, and a further two under development — and the announcement by the Dutch government in November 2022 of a €22m subsidy programme for hydrogen trucks and filling stations.

However, in September 2023, shortly before the cut-off date for the statistics, the Dutch government revealed that it had swollen that FCEV subsidy programme to €150m. The “Hydrogen in Mobility” scheme will grant funding of up to €300,000 ($326,485) per fuel-cell truck, van or bus, and €2m per filling station when the two are deployed together, with the aim of stimulating hydrogen mobility “as a full-fledged option in addition to battery-electric transport”.

Meanwhile in Denmark, where a fleet of over 100 taxis among other users were left stranded last year when operator Everfuel closed all three of the country’s HRSs due to a lack of profitability, there was only one commercial FCEV registration, and no hydrogen car registrations, compared to 65,483 BEVs. The previous year there were six FCEVs registered, according to Statistics Denmark.

The site currently shows four HRSs in Denmark (including the three closed by Everfuel), all of which are listed as having “technical difficulties”. The fourth is an HRS at a Nel factory in Herning, which is not open to the public and only used for demonstration purposes.

Data compiled by Hydrogen Insight also shows falling FCEV sales in South Korea and Japan, but market growth in China and the US.

However, it was not all bad news for the European FCEV market. In France, which has 11 H2 refuelling stations and two under development, hydrogen vehicle sales grew by around 56% year-on-year to 306, according to the French Automobile Platform (PFA). Even so, these figures represent a tiny amount compared to the 298,000 BEV sales for the year.

Nevertheless, FCEV sales figures are likely to be boosted in 2024, with the news yesterday that just three days after introducing eight new hydrogen van models, French automaker Stellantis has sold 150 of the vehicles to Hysetco, a joint venture between Toyota, Air Liquide, energy efficiency services company Idex and electric taxi firm Step that leases fuel-cell vehicles to customers in France.

And French oil major TotalEnergies and industrial gases firm Air Liquide this week announced the formal launch of their 50-50 joint venture for hydrogen refuelling, Teal Mobility, which aims to have up to 20 stations up and running by the end of 2024.

This comes as the EU rolls out legislation mandating that hydrogen refuelling infrastructure must be present every 200km on its major roads by 2030, as well as in 424 “urban nodes” across Europe.

In Belgium, where the FCEV market is still nascent despite having seven HRSs, there was also an uptick in new registrations, albeit from a low base. In total, there were 12 FCEVs registered in 2023 (eight cars and four commercial vehicles), according the Belgian statistics agency, Statbel, compared to 93,086 BEVs. However this represents a rise on 2022, when just two FCEVs were registered.

In Austria, which has six refuelling stations, FCEV sales fell by more than a quarter in 2023 — again from a low base — from 14 to ten, Statistic Austria data shows; while in Sweden, with five filling stations, just two hydrogen cars were registered last, compared to a whopping 112,115 BEVs. Mobility Sweden, which manages the Swedish statistics, does not hold data on hydrogen-powered commercial vehicles.

In the Czech Republic, which has two H2 filling stations, 21 Toyota Mirai cars were registered in 2023 — up from just one in 2022 — according to the country’s transport ministry.

None were registered in Italy or Latvia, which each have only one H2 filling station, according to annual statistics compliled by UNRAE, the national union of foreign motor vehicle representatives (which includes Italian-made vehicles in its figures) and the Latvian road traffic information council.

Outside the EU, there are three European countries that have HRSs in operation — the UK, Norway and Iceland.

In the UK, which has five HRSs, there were 65 FCEV registrations in 2023, the country’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders tells Hydrogen Insight — a 261% increase on the 18 registered in 2022.

In Iceland, where there are two H2 filling stations, the nation’s transportation agency only registered one hydrogen-powered car in 2023, and in Norway, only two fuel-cell cars were registered in 2023, one for each of the country’s two hydrogen filling stations, according to OFV, the country’s road traffic information council.

In total, there were exactly 750 new FCEVs registered in Europe last year, to be fuelled by 168 HRSs, compared to about 11,000 FCEVs and 430 HRSs in Asia (including aforementioned caveats).

*Note: The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers listed annual Chinese vehicle registration figures in units of 10,000, with FCEVs given the number 0.6 — ie, 6,000. As these figures were only listed to one decimal place, the exact amount of registrations is not clear.

European HRS figures are from