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EU pledges 1.4bn to develop hydrogen fuel cells

Funding available for projects which help to develop ‘commercially attractive’ hydrogen fuel cell technology

The European Commission has this week (July 10) announced that around €1.4 (£1.2) billion worth of funding is set to be made available to make hydrogen fuel cells more energy efficient and affordable.

Hydrogen vehicles, such as these buses which have been running in London since 2011, produce zero emissions to air

Hydrogen vehicles, such as these buses which have been running in London since 2011, produce zero emissions to air

Under the second phase of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) which originally launched in 2008, funding will be available for projects which make fuel cells commercially attractive.

Seen as a viable zero emission alternative to fossil fuel powered vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell cars produce water vapour instead of carbon monoxide and other pollutants that contribute to air quality problems.

Commenting on the scheme, Màire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, said: “Thanks to the current Fuel Cells and Hydrogen partnership, you can take a ride on hydrogen-powered pollution-free buses in five cities across Europe. But much research and development is still needed to make this application of FCH technology widespread and those for clean energy production and storage commercially attractive.

Announcement of the funding has also been welcomed by companies working in the sector.

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Pierre-Etienne Franc, chairman of the Board of NEW-IG, which represents hydrogen fuel cell developers, said: “We believe that a robust European programme for Fuel Cells and Hydrogen is the right tool to coordinate objectives, pool resources and advance the technology for the benefit of the European economy.

“This renewed political and financial support is a sign that Europe will strive to establish this technology as a key enabler for its future energy and transport roadmap. Joint priority setting and a long term perspective are key to enabling private investment in such complex, societal challenges.”

“The EU and industry will continue to work together under this new initiative to help reduce the carbon footprint of our energy and transport sectors.”

Significant investment has already been made in establishing hydrogen fuel cell technology in the UK, with hydrogen buses operating in London since 2011, while Aberdeen city council has unveiled plans to have 10 hydrogen fuel cell buses in operation by 2014 (see airqualitynews.com story).

A planned hydrogen vehicle fuelling network is also set to be rolled out across London and south east England by a consortium of companies backed by the government (see airqualitynews.com story).

But, critics of hydrogen fuel cell technology have warned that the high cost of establishing charging infrastructure could prohibit the wide-scale uptake of the technology by car manufacturers.

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Roland Gilmore
7 years ago

Correction: “Significant investment has already been made in establishing hydrogen fuel cell technology in the UK, with hydrogen buses operating in London since 2011.” That depends how you define “significant”. A handful of H2 buses for last year’s Olympic tourists is stretching that definition. The H2 for these buses is imported from a methane cracking plant in Belgium. Fossil fuel is the wrong technology to use. The UK government have been far too slow to invest in fuel cell technology and H2 infrastructure. Hydrogen is the only viable, plentiful and non-polluting future we should be investing in and not George Osborne’s fracking subsidies to fossil fuel companies.
Otherwise, this is very encouraging news.