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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

EU unveils plans to boost hydrogen use in cars

The Commission has proposed simplifying market approval for hydrogen-powered cars and support research with €470 million over the next six years. However, Brussels admits that the technology will have little impact for 10-15 years.

Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs) - part of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7) - are set to be long-term public-private partnerships on strategic-research areas, combining private-sector investment with national and European public funding.

In June 2005, the Commission external six areas in which JTIs could be established. These are: innovative medicines, embedded computing systems, aeronautics and air transport, hydrogen and fuel cells, nanoelectronics technologies 2020, and global monitoring for environment and security.

Official proposals have so far been tabled on innovative medicines (IMI), embedded computing systems (ARTEMIS), nano-electronics technologies (ENIAC) and aeronautics and air transport (CLEAN SKY).

The Commission adopted, on 10 October 2007, its first 'hydrogen package'. This includes a proposal for a regulation to simplify the market approval of hydrogen cars and a proposal for a regulation setting up the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative (JTI).

The proposal to simplify market approval for hydrogen cars is "an example of a regulation that stimulates innovation by providing for a clear framework and the necessary stability for industry," said Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik. "The hydrogen JTI is a prime example of the sort of tools available to us as we develop our energy policy," he added.

However, Commissioner Günter Verheugen said that, even though it presents a promising technological option, he was "not convinced that the hydrogen car will be the car of the future" but thought it was important to give this technology a opportunity to prove whether it will work.
"I don't know whether it will work some day. In any case it is sure that the technology will have no impact in the next 10-15 years."

Verheugen also said that one needs to ensure that the production of hydrogen does not itself lead to an increase in CO2 emissions. "Hydrogen technology for vehicles is only viable in so far as we guarantee that he hydrogen itself is not obtained from fossil energy sources," he said, adding that it could be produced by nuclear power as the "EU does not have anti-nuclear policy".

The hydrogen JTI will get €470 from the budget of the FP7 over the next six years and the industry has committed to matching at least the same amount.

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