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Non-nuclear energy

Why is R&D needed for fuel cells?

Fission and radiation protection

Liquid hydrogen-fuelled fuel cell car (Courtesy of FEVER project and Renault)

Why aren't fuel cell modules in regular use?  

  • Many technical and engineering challenges remain.
  • Fuel cells are still too expensive and not reliable enough.

Why do we need research?

An important aspect for the development of commercial fuel cell systems is the cost. During the last decade a cost reduction of a factor of ten has been achieved, but more research is needed to reduce the cost of fuel cell systems to a competitive level.

What research is necessary for fuel cells?

  • The main research objectives are to bring about cost reductions in all aspects of fuel cell production, materials, systems and applications together with those of related components and to address other technical and non-technical barriers.
  • A further objective is to integrate socio-economic research into all research areas.

Why is EU support necessary?

  • To determine an appropriate pathway to move from a fossil-based to a mixed energy economy is a trans-border matter, which requires intensive co-operation at EU level.
  • The EU added-value for fuel cells should be high because of the level of research on fuel cells in most Member States (MS). Co-operation, coherence and consistency between the EU and MS programmes will maximise their effectiveness and lead to a critical mass of complementary research.
  • Fuel choices, safety aspects and infrastructure require a common EU approach. If the EU supports work towards common European standards and regulations, as well as education and training programmes, fuel-cell technology will be implemented faster.
  • A convergence of views is sought on issues such as:
    • The rational choice of which fuels to use;
    • Assessing external costs;
    • The socio-economic consequences of introducing new fuel-cell technologies;
    • Identifying barriers to commercialisation;
    • Seeking investment and venture capital to provide new fuel infrastructure and production facilities; and
    • Harmonising research goals with EU and national policies.

Bottlenecks and barriers

Large molten carbonate fuel cell (MCFT)
What are the issues that need to be addressed?
  • The main objective of fuel cell research is to reduce costs in the production and application of fuel cell systems and of their related components.
  • A major priority is to demonstrate fuel cell durability, reliability and availability.

What are the major technical barriers to be overcome?

  • The principal barriers are cost and fuel choice.
  • The need to make improvements in performance to achieve higher specific powers and power densities.

What are the major non-technical barriers to be overcome?

The following non-technical issues have to be decided:

  • Rational choice of fuels;
  • Assessment of external costs;
  • Socio-economic consequences of introducing new fuel-cell technologies;
  • Identification of the barriers to commercial fuel cell development; and
  • Availability of investment and venture capital to provide new fuel infrastructure and production facilities.

What are the research priorities in this area?

Research will be carried out in the following areas:

  • High-temperature fuel cells and systems for decentralised electricity production and co-generation in buildings;
  • Low-temperature fuel-cell use in transport, co-generation in buildings and decentralised electricity production;
  • Reliability of fuel cells for building and electricity applications;
  • Components for low and high temperature fuel cell systems;
  • Research into materials;
  • Production of hydrogen, through reforming for fuel cells, transport applications;
  • Socio-economic research.