Europe must catch up with Asian countries on hydrogen fuel cells - report

LONDON - In a new report examining the status of the German and European hydrogen fuel cell markets, the German government-backed National Platform Future of Mobility (NPM) says there is “a good chance that fuel cell technology can achieve a break-through in mobile applications.”

However, Europe must catch up with Asian countries, it adds. For Germany and Europe to take on a leading role in fuel cell technologies, their industries need to be strengthened and sustainably developed, the report finds. In its paper, the NPM Working Group 4 – which aims to secure Germany as a place for mobility, battery cell production, recycling, training and qualification – states that the “chances of fuel cell technology achieving a break-through in the automotive industry – even in Europe – are better than ever.”

The development, expansion and use of the technology in various applications are now supported by “a significantly modified regulatory framework and new political ambitions, as stipulated in the National Hydrogen Strategy,” the report stresses. In terms of cost of ownership, “hydrogen solutions can hold their own compared to other technologies” and there are “many promising developments in the transport sector, especially in heavy transport.”

If research and development efforts can help optimise installation space and weight as well as increase the operating temperature of fuel cells, hydrogen solutions can also become attractive for maritime, rail and air transport, the report notes. Tax incentives -- such as the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) surcharge exemption for green hydrogen -- can contribute to the technology’s appeal, it adds.

Fuel cell drives are often seen as a way to decarbonise certain areas of transport, such as heavy trucks. However, producing the hydrogen in a sustainable way consumes a lot of renewable electricity also needed in other sectors, and experts say battery-electric trucks are set to take over heavy duty road freight because they are much cheaper to run than other low-emission technologies, including fuel cells.


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