Brussels, 25 February 2008
European research shows that hydrogen energy could reduce oil consumption in road transport by 40% by 2050
A scientific project funded by the EU's research programme has found that introducing hydrogen into the energy system would reduce the total oil consumption by the road transport sector by 40% between now and 2050. By taking a leading position in the worldwide market for hydrogen technologies, Europe can open new economic opportunities and strengthen its competitiveness. But the analysis also states that transition won't happen automatically. Substantial barriers have first to be overcome, ranging from economic and technological to institutional barriers, and actions must be taken as soon as possible. The HyWays project brings together industry, research institutes and government agencies from ten European countries. Following a series of more than 50 workshops the project has produced a Roadmap to analyse the potential impacts on the EU economy, society and environment of the large-scale introduction of hydrogen in the short- and long- term, as well as an action plan detailing what needs to be done for this to take place. The report is published as the Member States are due to give their approval of a new €940m public/private research partnership for the development of hydrogen and fuel cells.
The HyWays project has created a roadmap based on country-specific analysis of the situation in Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom, together with an action plan detailing the steps necessary to move towards greater use of hydrogen.
Hydrogen is one of the most realistic options for environmental and economic sustainability in the transport sector, in particular passenger transport, light duty vehicles and city buses. However, its introduction requires gradual changes throughout the entire energy system and thus careful planning at this early stage. The transitional period offers Europe the opportunity to take the lead in developing hydrogen and fuel cell technology and its applications in transport and energy supply. The challenges are high and the right steps have to be taken quickly if Europe is not to count the cost of late market entry.
The costs of hydrogen end-use applications, especially for road transport, need to be reduced considerably to become competitive. At the same time deployment support schemes for hydrogen end-use technologies and infrastructure build-up are required. Comparing the spending for hydrogen production, supply and vehicles with the savings to be gained from replacing conventional fuel and conventional vehicles over time, the extensive and high-quality simulations of the project predict that the break-even point would be most likely reached between 2025 and 2035. The HyWays Roadmap estimates that in 2030 there will be 16 million hydrogen cars and the total cumulative investment for infrastructure build-up will amount to €60 billion.
The study examined the different ways in which hydrogen can be produced and found differing attitudes across the EU. All countries represented chose the production of hydrogen from natural gas, biomass and wind energy. Nuclear energy was seen as an option in France, Finland, Spain, Poland and the United Kingdom, whereas the use of coal was excluded in Finland, France and Norway. The report showed that the production of hydrogen from fossil fuels using carbon capture and storage could make a significant contribution to reducing CO2 emissions. Furthermore, the introduction of hydrogen into the energy system offers the opportunity to increase the ratio of renewable energy, and help the large-scale introduction of intermittent resources such as wind energy through its use as a temporary energy storage option.
Competitiveness ministers of the 27 Member States are today expected to discuss and give the green light to a European Commission proposal for a public/private research partnership ("Joint Technology Initiative") to develop Fuel Cell and Hydrogen technology. This industry-led integrated programme of research, technology development and demonstration activities will receive € 470 million of funding from the EU's research programme over the next six years, an amount to be matched by the private sector. At the same meeting, ministers will discuss the Strategic Energy Technology Plan, which mentions this initiative as an example for future European actions to develop new energy technologies.
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