Commission sets out plans for Fuel Cells and Hydrogen JTI
The European Commission has released its proposal for a Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative (JTI). The Commission hopes that the new public-private partnership will boost the
development of hydrogen technologies to the point of commercial take-off between 2010 and 2020.
‘Europe is facing major challenges to secure its energy supply, while combating climate change, preserving the environment, and maintaining a competitive economy. Technologies such as fuel
cells and hydrogen can help us tick all the boxes,’ said Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik. ‘The Joint Technology Initiative for Fuel Cells and Hydrogen will be a major step in
bringing about the research, development and deployment programme that Europe needs to bring these technologies to the market.’
The European Commission will contribute up to ?470 million to the project over the next six years, and this amount will have to be matched by private investments.
Fuel cells work by converting fuel and oxygen efficiently into electricity, heat and water. They can be used in a range of devices, from mobile phones and lap tops to cars, buses, ships,
aeroplanes and power generators. However, there are a number of barriers to their further development and deployment.
Issues still needing to be addressed include the cost and durability of fuel cells; the sustainable production of hydrogen; and the safe and efficient storage and distribution of hydrogen.
Overcoming these technical barriers to the further development of these technologies will require complex research that no single organisation could perform on its own. Furthermore there is no
agreed, long-term budget plan and strategy to encourage industry to devote more resources to the subject. There is also insufficient links within the EU research programme between fundamental
research and European demonstration projects.
By bringing together public and private actors in one initiative the Commission hopes to overcome these problems and ensure that the EU does not fall behind international competition in the
field. The US and Japan both have hydrogen and fuel cell research programmes in which government and industry work closely together.
The Fuel Cells and Hydrogen JTI is the fifth such initiative to be proposed by the Commission. The EU’s research ministers discussed four other JTIs at their recent Council meeting, and a final
decision on these is expected in November. A sixth JTI, on Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), is also planned.
The Commission has also taken action to simplify the approval of hydrogen cars. Currently hydrogen vehicles are not covered by the European Community Whole Vehicle Type-Approval System, under
which a vehicle which is approved by one Member State can be marketed throughout the EU. This means that if a vehicle obtains approval in one Member State, that approval may not be recognised
The new proposal will see hydrogen vehicles treated in the same way as conventional vehicles, thereby saving manufacturers up to ?124 million in approval costs over the period 2017-2025. To
ensure the safety of hydrogen vehicles, the proposal sets out technical requirements relating to the hydrogen technology components of the vehicles.
‘The introduction of hydrogen vehicles has the potential to make Europe’s air cleaner and reduce its dependency on fossil fuels,’ said Günter Verheugen, EU Commissioner for Enterprise and
Industry. ‘Setting common standards will support the introduction of these vehicles and ensure high safety for citizens. It will also boost the competitiveness of European manufacturers.’
However, there was criticism from Green MEP Claude Turmes who questioned the viability of hydrogen technologies. ‘There are clear solutions to the environmental damage caused by vehicle
emissions that will deliver real results in the short-term, such as through the enforcement of ambitious efficiency standards or the promotion of hybrid vehicles. The Commission should have the
courage to promote these solutions as part of a sustainable transport policy and not hide behind smokescreens like hydrogen cars,’ he said.