Background - Green Hydrogen Traffic

The transport sector accounts for roughly one third of the overall energy consumption in the European Union. Road traffic contributes by far the largest share. Due to increasing mileage the total energy consumption in transportation rises steadily even though specific fuel demand per kilometre has slowly decreased in recent years.

The use of diesel or gasoline in internal combustion engines leads to carbondioxyde (CO2 ) emissions and the release of pollutants (NOX , SO2 , etc.). Studies on the external costs of fossil energy use estimate the health expenses caused by emissions from traffic to be in the range of 0.6 EURO per litre of fuel.

Hydrogen, on the other hand, constitutes an environmentally benign energy carrier since its consumption in fuel cells results in the mere emission of water vapour. In addition to this local point of view however, focused on the vehicle exhaust, the fuel’s origin also has to be considered.

There are no natural sources of hydrogen. It has to be generated by water electrolysis or by reforming natural gas, methanol, petrol etc. Feeding renewable energy to electrolysers provides fuel which is free of emissions both in a local and global frame of reference. When this hydrogen is supplied to fuel cell vehicles, zero-emission transportation becomes a reality.

All major car manufacturers are developing hydrogen vehicles, with fuel cells as a prime propulsion option. Prototype development is ongoing with field tests in preparation. Market introduction is expected between 2004 and 2006. The Californian legislation on zero-emission traffic has been an important driving force behind these activities.

Within the next months a major demonstration project (CUTE - Clean Urban Transport for Europe) for fuel cell buses in public transport will be launched. The implementation of refuelling infrastructure in everyday operation is part of the project to which the EUHYFIS consortium will contribute.