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Brussels, 10th October 2007

Clean and safe cars: The Commission promotes hydrogen vehicles

Hydrogen vehicles offer environmental benefits through lower pollution and zero exhaust pipe greenhouse gas emissions. The Commission wants to enable the EU-wide introduction of such cars and ensure their safe operation. These are the objectives of today’s proposal of the European Commission. More hydrogen cars will benefit citizens through reduced health impacts of transport. Common standards for hydrogen storage will guarantee the safety of the general public. The proposal has been developed involving extensive stakeholder discussion and has also been subject to an internet consultation. The proposal will now be considered by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.

Hydrogen can be used in mobile applications like cars, delivery vans and buses. Hydrogen is a clean energy carrier. When used either in combustion motors or in fuel-cell systems, it does not produce any carbon emissions (carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, unburned hydrocarbons or particulates). Thus, using hydrogen will improve air quality in cities. Moreover, no greenhouse gases are produced from motor vehicles, although care will have to be taken that the production of hydrogen itself does not lead to an increase in CO2 emissions. This can be achieved by producing hydrogen from non-fossil energy sources or by CO2 sequestration.

The European Community Whole Vehicle Type-Approval (WVTA)[1] system applies to vehicles powered by conventional fuels (petrol and diesel). Once a type of vehicle has obtained an EC WVTA certificate from the authorities of a Member State, it can be marketed throughout the European Union.

Currently, hydrogen powered vehicles are not included in the EC WVTA framework. Some Member States issue national or single approval for these vehicles, while others are not doing so because of a lack of national or European Union legislation.

The lack of a clear legislative framework poses problems for hydrogen vehicle manufacturers when trying to place these vehicles on the market in the European Union. Currently, even if a vehicle obtains national or single type-approval in one Member State, it is not guaranteed that the registration of this vehicle will be authorised in all the other Member States. Further, Member States have the possibility to establish different requirements and to request the fulfilment of diverging standards in order to issue an approval certificate. This situation results in a fragmented internal market of hydrogen powered vehicles, as well as complicated and costly approval procedures, which discourages the introduction of this environmentally friendly technology.

The Commission has adopted a proposal that will introduce these vehicles in the type-approval framework. This means that hydrogen vehicles will be treated the same way as conventional vehicles and a single approval will be sufficient for the entire European Union.

At the same time, there are perceived safety issues with using hydrogen for vehicle propulsion, since it has different characteristics than conventional fuels. Therefore, it should be ensured that hydrogen vehicles put on the market in the EU are at least as safe as conventional vehicles.

Thus, the proposal specifies technical requirements to be applied for the type-approval of hydrogen components (hydrogen containers and hydrogen components other than containers) included in the hydrogen system in order to ensure that hydrogen related components are working in a proper and safe way.

The impact assessment that accompanies the proposal has concluded that adopting an EU regulatory package could result in a saving of up to 124 million Euros in approval costs to vehicle manufacturers in the period 2017-2025. With the establishment of the approval framework, the automotive industry could become more competitive in markets outside the EU, through taking the lead in hydrogen technology.
More information

[1] The WVTA is regulated by the Framework Directive (2007/46/EC)

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