Hydrogen is an energy carrier with great potential for clean, efficient power in stationary, portable and transport applications. It is envisaged as a significant element of the future fuel mix for transport, enhancing energy security, reducing oil dependency, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
Hydrogen allows a wide diversification of energy sources. In combination with fuel cells, it can also improve energy efficiency in transport and contribute strongly to mitigating climate change – especially when produced by renewable primary energy sources.
Hydrogen and fuel cell technologies were identified amongst the new energy technologies needed to achieve a 60 % to 80 % reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050, in the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan presented along with the Energy Policy Package in January 2008.
The potential for fuel cells and hydrogen to enhance energy security and mitigate climate change was recognised in 2003 with the creation of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform. The platform brought together key stakeholders in the fuel cell and hydrogen fields who jointly developed an implementation plan. Published in 2007, the plan addressed the technological and non technological barriers to deployment of these disruptive technologies. It identified key issues and priorities for accelerating deployment of portable, stationary and transport applications. The platform led to the formation of a Public Private Partnership - the 'Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking' (JU) - between the European Commission, industry and the research community. A main aim of the JU is to enable commercial deployment by 2020. In future, the European Commission will channel support for fuel cell and hydrogen research and demonstration through the JU. For the period 2007-2013, European Commission support amounts to € 470 million.
Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Research and Demonstration projectssupported by DG MOVE
The European Commission has supported development of hydrogen and fuel cells since the early 1990s. Research has mainly been directed at improving performance and durability and reducing costs.
DG MOVE funded demonstrations of hydrogen technologies for stationary and transport applications in the 5th Research and Technological Development Framework Programme FP5. In the 6th Framework Programme FP6, a call under the Thematic Priority 'Sustainable development, global change and ecosystems' was launched, leading to a number of demonstration projects and the formation of an informal 'European Hydrogen for Transport Partnership'. The results of these efforts provided much input to the recently formed Public-Private-Partnership 'Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking'.
The recently completed Coordination Action 'HyLights' supported technology assessment and validation and analysed policy options for promoting hydrogen and fuel cells. It has published handbooks for the monitoring and assessment of demonstration projects, a study of vehicle requirements for early markets, and developed a tool for assessing potential hydrogen demonstration sites .
The hydrogen bus demonstration projects CUTE and its successor HyFLEET:CUTE have made major advances in proving fuel cell and hydrogen propulsion technologies. In HyFLEET:CUTE 33 fuel cell buses and 14 internal combustion engine buses have operated in daily public service. In total these buses have accumulated in excess of 2,5 million kilometres and carried more than 8,5 million passengers. The new fuel cell technology has proven to be very reliable. The project also demonstrated the next generation fuel cell / battery hybrid bus which has reduced hydrogen consumption by half. A turbo-charged hydrogen bus with fuel cell auxiliary power unit has also been built and tested - resulting in significant fuel savings compared to conventional ICEs. The project has also demonstrated hydrogen production, distribution and refuelling infrastructure. Safety, public acceptance and training are also important elements studied in HyFLEET:CUTE.
The ZERO REGIO project is demonstrating two small fuel cell car fleets in Rhein Main and Lombardia. Hydrogen re-fuelling infrastructure has been installed at an open, public filling station. The project is also evaluating new components for refuelling infrastructure, including hydrogen supply by high pressure pipeline (1000bars), new compressor technology and 700bar on-vehicle storage. The cars have performed very reliably and have demonstrated a much higher fuel efficiency than that of conventional cars. The use of bi-product hydrogen from a nearby chemical process is very cost-effective.
The HyChain Mini-Trans project is demonstrating around 50 innovative fuel cell vehicles of different types, including scooters, wheelchairs, cargo-bikes, small trucks and minibuses in four European regions. The project has developed high pressure cartridge refuelling technology. It is also investigating issues relating to safety, standards, type approval, and market introduction for these special purpose vehicles.