Hydrogen and Fuel Cells offer zero emission solutions for transport and mobility. For many years, the European Union and some Member States decided to support research and innovation into this technology by various programs. On EU level the continuous support by the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking starting from 2008 has led to a maturity of the applications that pays off today.
With 25% of the GHG emissions attributable to transport, and the requirement to reduce them by 95% by 2050, there is no other way than to opt for massive electrification of transport, spurred by introduction of renewables, including both battery electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles which complement each other. Without efficient electric power drive systems such as fuel cells the long-term climate goals cannot be achieved. Fuel cell vehicles offer emission-free driving without changing personal habits. It is our role and responsibility together with the European governments to highlight and enhance the latest developments in fuel-cell technology and their applications in mobility at end-users’ level.
Battery Electric Vehicles versus Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles: A Friendship
As explained under the Zero Emission Mobility page of this website, we observe air quality issues in our cities. The only way to drastically tackle this issue is by opting for zero emission tailpipe technologies, of which there are only 2: Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles using hydrogen (i.e.: indirectly electricity as it is produced from water electrolysis) and Battery Electric Vehicles using electricity directly.
Beyond ensuring the EU has the right technologies for electromobility, the question of our competitiveness is core. We fully support the approach and the strong action to catch up in terms of lost competitiveness on the batteries side. At the same time, we wish to stress that we should not forget the existing competitive advantages in e-mobility related to hydrogen electric technologies. The production of green hydrogen via electrolysis and the construction of hydrogen refueling stations are today a clear competitive advantage of European industry. When it comes to the production of fuel cells for mobility or tanks for Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs), the EU is competitive on a global scale. When it comes to batteries however, the situation is quite different:
Source: High-Level Group on Key Enabling Technologies (European Commission)
Renewable Energy Directive recast
The role for Hydrogen as fuel
Hydrogen Europe fully supports the initiative of the European Commission to recast the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) for the 2020-2030 period. Moreover, we specifically welcome the introduction of renewable liquid and gaseous transport fuels of non-biological origin (REFUNOBIOs) as a transport fuel category as well as the recognition of renewable gases in the guarantees of origin market. In combination with the new Electricity Market Design we expect that the European energy system will integrate renewables better by utilising all available technologies to avoid curtailment, thus helping the further decarbonisation of EU’s energy and transport systems. It is therefore essential for the sector to ensure that hydrogen technologies are properly covered by the RED II, thus reflecting their broad potential and ensuring a level playing field between different existing technologies.
With regard to the production of renewable liquid and gaseous transport fuels of non-biological origin (e.g. green hydrogen), we believe that the direct link to a new installation generating renewable electricity and delivered for land transport should not be the only production pathway leading to recognition of the used electricity as fully renewable. This can, and should, be achievable through electricity obtained through the grid (e.g. via power purchase agreements or proven by Guarantees of Origin) which should also be the case for battery electric mobility (=technology neutrality). Recognition of different production pathways for green hydrogen is critical to achieving sectoral integration, grid stabilization and demand response management which are key to decarbonisation of multiple sectors in Europe. Importantly, new and existing renewable electricity production should be allowed to be linked, so as to allow for existing overcapacities to be utilised (e.g. in Denmark and Northern Germany).
A level playing field
Both hydrogen and battery technologies have their place in the future of mobility based on decarbonised and electrified transport sector due to their respective distinct advantages. It is important to ensure a level playing field for both technologies. This is a message that both Hydrogen Europe and the European Green Vehicle Initiative (EGVIA) share, having recently released a joint statement in which we jointly push for the development of electromobility, based both on batteries and fuel cell based vehicles.
Technological neutrality is critical to ensure that the market can utilise all existing technologies that can contribute to the decarbonisation efforts of the EU. We believe that all tailpipe zero emission technologies should have the same factor. We therefore support increasing it for hydrogen to 5, equalising it with renewable electricity. Alternatively, in order to allow such technological neutrality, the text could be changed to allow for direct and indirect supply of renewable electricity to road vehicles.
Green hydrogen for refineries: a chance under the RED recast
Equally, the possibility to create a quick win with regards to GHG emission reduction in the transport sector thanks to the introduction of so-called “advanced conventional fuels”, those being fossil fuels with a lower carbon footprint achieved by using green hydrogen as a raw material in refining, should be reflected in the text proposal.
Guarantee of Origin scheme
Finally, at a later stage, the need to allow for a specific hydrogen-only Guarantee of Origin scheme (under article 19) to be established would therefore be crucial.
Financing zero emission infrastructure
Furthermore, more funding should be made available for projects whose objective is not only cross-border but also cross-sectoral integration. It can contribute to avoiding curtailment, avoid stranded assets and help lower taxpayer costs whilst supporting Union’s decarbonisation efforts. Examples of such projects already exist, such as CEF Synergy.