Major funding by the EU and industry should put Europe at the forefront of hydrogen fuel cell development and deployment. This could lead to a future where car emissions are purely water.
Fuel cells are highly efficient energy-conversion devices that could be applied in a variety of products from mobile phones to cars and planes, as well as stationary heat and power generators. However, there are a number of technical and non-technical barriers to wide commercially availability – including the cost and durability of fuel cells, as well as the sustainable production of hydrogen, and its safe and efficient distribution and storage.
European Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik describes the EU Joint Technology Initiative (JTI) on fuel cells and hydrogen as a milestone in EU target-oriented research. This public-private partnership will implement EU research and development (R&D), providing market support for the introduction of such technologies. The JTI was approved by the European Parliament on 20 May 2008and adopted by the European Council on 30 May.
Founded by the Commission and an association of European fuel-cell and hydrogen companies, the JTI was officially launched at the inaugural Stakeholders General Assembly in October 2008. It will have a budget of €1 billion: some €470 million will be provided by the European Commission over the next six years as part of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7); and this figure will be matched or bettered by the private sector.
By working with industry, the EU will be able to increase resources for R&D, while also ensuring better coordination with national and regional programmes. The initiative should play a significant role in the development and implementation of low carbon technologies as part of the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-plan). In addition, the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen JTI represents a working example of the first of many EU industrial initiatives that have been foreseen by the SET-plan.
The JTI aims to accelerate the development of fuel-cell and hydrogen technologies in Europe, and ensure their commercialisation between 2010 and 2020. At its core, this initiative represents a partnership to implement a programme of R&D activities, complemented by demonstration and support measures for the most promising applications. In addition, this JTI will not only coordinate activities at EU level, but will also act as a cohesive element with work done in Member States and regional programmes.
The benefit of a proactive approach was confirmed by the scenario analysis carried out in the EU-funded HyWays project that indicated the adoption of hydrogen technologies could reduce oil consumption in the road transport sector by 40% between now and 2050. By the same date, the introduction of fuel-cell and hydrogen technologies will result in carbon-emission savings of 50% of the peak levels. Despite the obvious benefits associated with these technologies, the Commission believes the European industrial sector stills needs to be stimulated to make necessary investments.
The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen JTI is the result of a six-year effort, involving a variety of stakeholders. This began in October 2002 with the High Level Group for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technology, which developed a common vision on the contribution such technologies could make to sustainable energy. In turn, this led to the establishment of the industry-led European Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform in June 2003. This ETP drafted the main strategic documents for Europe, and also provided assistance to the Commission to help prepare the proposal for the JTI.
In terms of its functioning, the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen JTI will be led, as a legal entity, by a Governing Board. Everyday operations will be run by an Executive Director, supported by a Programme Office in Brussels. In addition, a high level Scientific Committee will serve in an advisory role to the Governing Board, while Member States will be updated on developments by a States Representative Group. Finally there will be an annual Stakeholders General Assembly, open to both public and private stakeholders.
European Strategic Energy Technology Plan: http://ec.europa.eu/energy/res/setplan/
HyWays-Projekt [719 KB]
European Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform: http://www.hfpeurope.org/
Research DG news alert: http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=newsalert&lg=en&year=2008&na=na-020608
Major vehicle makers Daimler and Ford joined with fuel-cell technology company Ballard Power Systems in 2008 to form the Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation Corporation, focused on the development of hydrogen fuel cells for automotive applications. Through the application of products such as Ballards Mark902 Fuel Cell, these technologies have reached a wider market.Daimler already has 60 light-duty Mercedes-Benz A-Class fleet vehicles on the road in Germany, Japan, Singapore and the USA, and has more than 100 fuel cell vehicles in operation all over the world.International shipping company UPS is currently delivering packages across the USA with a fleet of Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans powered by Ballard’s fuel cell technology.
Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation Corporation: http://www.ballard.com/About_Ballard/Industry_Relations/Strategic_Alliances.htm