Last time we created some buzz around the 1st public hydrogen station to be constructed in Belgium (Zaventem), there wasn’t actually much to see. Except for a ceremony attended by high level people digging a shovel in the ground as to mark and underline this important step in creating a hydrogen refueling infrastructure in Belgium, and by extension in Europe.
Now, half a year later, the landscape has changed considerably. A full-fledged hydrogen station has arisen on Toyota-owned land leased to Air Liquide. This station has been designed and built by Air Liquide and will not only serve fuel cell cars such as the Toyota Mirai, but also trucks and buses.
Just like at the groundbreaking ceremony, Ms Annemie Turtelboom, Vice-Minister-President of the Flemish Government, Flemish Minister for Budget, Finance and Energy was present on Friday 22 April to officially open the very first of 20 planned hydrogen stations in Flanders.
Joining her were two representatives of the European Commission, Mr. Nikolaus Von Peter (Directorate-General for Transport) and Mr. Robert Schröder (Directorate-General for Research and Innovation) as well as a vast delegation of all the partners, joining efforts to move the station from the drawing board to reality.
Partners in this project originate from both the private and public sector. Air Liquide will operate this station on land provided by Toyota Motor Europe. The building is part of the SWARM-project (Small 4-Wheel fuel cell passenger vehicle Applications in Regional and Municipal transport) which aims to supply 90 hydrogen-powered city cars to Europe, in regions such as the Brussels region and the Wer-Ems region in Germany. And finally FCH-JU, a public/private partnership aiming to support the development of applications involving hydrogen energy, has been contributing financially to the station.
Why do we believe in hydrogen? We feel it can provide an answer to some of the key environmental challenges, such as global warming and air quality. Hydrogen plays a key role in the Environmental Challenges we set out for 2050. One of them is to achieve 90% CO2 emissions reduction for new vehicles by 2050 compared to 2010.
2050 seems far away but to reach our goal THEN we need to act NOW! And at the start we may be selling only a few Mirai and this station may be just the beginning. But it’s a step. A small step, but an important step. And we are convinced it is the accumulation of these small steps that will ultimately lead to a zero emission society.
The official opening of this hydrogen station in the Brussels region paves the way for the start of sales of the Toyota Mirai in Belgium. Belgium is the 4th European country to start selling the fuel cell car following the UK, Germany and Denmark. Later this year three more countries are scheduled to introduce the Mirai: Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands.
The opening of Belgium’s very 1st hydrogen station coincides with the world-wide celebration of Earth Day – the largest and the most recognizable event in the environmental movement. We are happy to do our part with the fuel cell popularization.