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Will fuel stations ride the Green Wave?

On Tuesday the 8th of September, filling station owners, operators and lessees gathered at the Aquapalace hotel in Prague for the 8th annual Kongres Čerpačka, the goal of which is to address topical trends from the fuel station world. This time was no different, as the aptly named congress “Filling stations on the Green Wave” focused largely on lowering emissions and the future of alternative fuels.

Will fuel stations ride the Green Wave?

After introductions by organizers and the event’s gold partner, Unipetrol, came the first presentation from Petr Mára- well-known youtuber, new technology ambassador and Tesla Model 3 driver. His presentation was an opportunity to get a glimpse into the world of electromobility from the perspective of a battery vehicle user and potential filling station customer. Though Mára acknowledges the e-mobility trend still hovers at the beginning of the trend curve, he believes that the rise of electromobility will continue to grow at an exponential rate. He advises fuel station owners to consider investing into charging station and think about ways to entice EV drivers, such as superior service and quality merchandise. He believes that fuel stations of the future will find success primarily as comfortable waiting areas for recharging EV drivers.

But will the future of electromobility necessarily rely on recharging batteries? That was one question raised during the “Fuels of the Future” panel discussion, moderated by vice president of eMobility at Sygic, Petr Füzek. The panel included director of the UniCRE research center Jiří Hájek, who agrees with Mára that the unstoppable e-mobility trend will fundamentally change the fuel station world. According to him, however, it’s going to take a different form.

“We’ll go the rout of storing the electron in its simplest form- a hydrogen molecule. A molecule of hydrogen is made up of an electron and hydrogen proton. On a hydrogen fuel cell, these two split and the electron provides the energy to fuel the vehicle,” Hájek explains his view on the future of electromobility based on a hydrogen fuel cell.

“We have hydrogen and I trust that in time we will start making enough of it from renewable sources. What we’re missing today is distribution and infrastructure,” added Hájek, who also outlined the Unipetrol company’s plans for establishing hydrogen infrastructure in CR, starting with constructing two public hydrogen fuel stations.

The discussion briefly addressed other alternative fuel options, particularly CNG and LPG. Ale panelists agreed that these already tried paths will probably remain in the shadows of the past. Battery- operated and hydrogen vehicles got the most attention. Though there were some disagreements regarding the best applications and scenarios for these technologies, a clear consensus emerged in others. The transition from classic fuels to alternatives will be gradual and require collaboration from auto manufacturers, energy suppliers, governments and fuel stations. Although the shift toward cleaner mobility has already begun, it’ll be a number of years before we will see any significant changes.

One thing is certain- though the move to truly clean mobility will still take many years, the time for fuel stations to catch the green wave is now.