What are the key advantages of fuel cells?
- A fuel cell is energy efficient and emits few pollutants.
- Its additional intrinsic advantages are the quiet operation of electro-chemical energy conversion and the lack of moving/wearing parts. Its flexibility to vary the capacity or to use different fuel makes it very versatile and to develop a wide range of modular systems. These can be adapted to a variety of markets.
- The fuel cell's efficiency, versatility, multi-fuel capability and modular structure make it uniquely suited for use in a wide variety of stationary, vehicular and portable energy/power applications. Fuel cell cars using hydrogen as a fuel only emit water vapour - they do not emit pollutants Those using other fuels produce near-zero emissions.
- The benefits are national energy security, cleaner air, and economic opportunity.
What is the future potential of fuel cells technology?
- Fuel cells in vehicles combine very high-energy efficiency with zero exhaust emissions and potentially low noise without diminishing its performance and range.
- In the medium to long term, fuel cells have a strong energy saving potential for decentralised co-generation in households and buildings and for power production.
- In the long term they could replace a large part of the current combustion systems in all energy end use sectors.
What does it offer the EU specifically?
- The acquisition and exploitation of fuel cell technology is of great importance for the European Union's continued economic prosperity.
How does it contribute to achieving EU objectives?
Fuel cells are strategically important for key European economic, social, environmental and energy issues. These include:
- Providing security of supply and diversification of EU primary energy sources;
- Promoting sustainable development;
- Reducing pollutant emissions and greenhouse gases;
- Providing cost-competitive clean energy for improving industrial competitiveness and facilitating the full liberalisation of the energy market;
- Meeting the growing demand for energy in developed/ industrialised countries in a secure and sustainable way; and
- Reinforcing the trend towards decentralised electricity supply.
What is the EU political framework which is backing these fuel cell issues?
- The EC has issued the following documents in support of the above issues:
A look into the futureWhat are the future applications of fuel cells?
- The ultimate goal of fuel cell research is to produce a totally non-polluting mobile, stationary, or portable power generator. Fuel cells generally need a supply of pure hydrogen in order to operate and the ideal solution is to generate hydrogen by non-polluting and renewable methods, such as from solar power, and to supply this directly to the fuel cell. However, this is currently unrealistic, so another way of supplying hydrogen must be developed.
What is the use of this technology in the short, medium and long term?
- Fuel cell technology is an emerging technology which is expected, in the medium to long term, to replace a large part of the current combustion system in industry, buildings and road transport.
- In the long term, fuel cells and hydrogen are expected to form an integral part of RES- based energy supply, with hydrogen as the major energy carrier.
What are the research requirements?
- The medium and long-term goals for fuel cell technology are a reduction in the cost of fuel cell production; use in buildings, in vehicular and decentralised electricity production, and advanced materials research into low and high temperature fuel cells.
How can we develop a stronger market for fuel cell technology?
- In view of the huge potential market, the competitiveness of EU industry is a major issue. Currently, US and Japanese fuel cell companies greatly exceed EU fuel cell manufacturers in number, size and experience. Today, public spending for European fuel cell research amounts to approximately €60 million a year which is far below that of the US and Japan. Strong EU support for better-integrated European research is a prerequisite for new companies to become competitive with US and Japanese manufacturers.
- At the same time as researching technologies, the European Union must take an overall prospective, creating a stable commercial environment within which technological exploitation can occur.