EU Eases Road for Hydrogen Cars

Goal is to set uniform requirements for hydrogen vehicles manufacturers in Europe

The EU parliament on Sept. 3 took a significant step towards the introduction of hydrogen-powered cars on Europe's roads, calling for common criteria for the environmentally friendly technology. The agreement "is a big step forward in the introduction of hydrogen vehicles," said European Commission vice-president Guenter Verheugen.

"They have the potential to make Europe's air cleaner and reduce its dependency on fossil fuels. Setting common standards will ensure high safety for citizens and will boost the competitiveness of European manufacturers," Verheugen said.

The purpose of the proposal is "to lay down harmonized technical provisions for the type-approval of hydrogen-powered vehicles for the first time," the parliament said. Currently there are no uniform requirements for hydrogen vehicles in Europe, posing problems for hydrogen vehicle manufacturers when trying to place these vehicles on the market. The result, according to the commission, is "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."

"With the adoption of EU-wide criteria, the European Union can establish itself now ahead of global research and ensure investment security for market access of this future technology," said British conservative MEP Malcolm Harbour.

The Euro MPs also stressed the need to encourage the setting up of hydrogen filling stations, essential to the success of the technology and currently very rare in Europe.

When used as fuel, either in combustion motors or in fuel-cell systems, hydrogen does not produce any carbon emissions, though care will have to be taken that the production of hydrogen itself does not lead to an increase in CO2 emissions. While hydrogen has more energy power than oil, methanol and natural gas, its lightness makes it very difficult to stock and transport. At present the fuel used is normally a hydrogen mixture with natural gas or biomethane. The MEPs said in the future pure hydrogen should be used, and that the current fuel was just a transitional technology.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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