The European Commission (EC) has adopted a proposal for a Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative (JTI)—a public-private R&D partnership with industry in the lead. The EC will fund €470 million (US$664 million) from the FP7 program and private industry will fund at least an equivalent amount.
The EC’s intention with the JTI is to develop robust hydrogen supply and fuel cell technologies to the point of commercial take-off. For the automotive sector, the aim is to achieve breakthroughs in bottleneck technologies and to enable industry to make the large-scale commercialization decisions that are necessary to achieve mass market growth in the time-frame 2015-2020. For stationary fuel cells (domestic and commercial) and portable applications, the JTI will provide the technology base to initiate market growth from 2010-2015.
Joint Technology Initiatives are a major new element of the EU’s 7th Research Framework Programme (FP), which runs from 2007-2013. The EC has been providing increasing levels of funding for research into fuel cells and hydrogen from successive EU Framework Programmes: from €8M from FP2 to €315M from FP6. The EC intends for this JTI to contribute to reduced time to market for hydrogen and fuel cells technologies by between 2 and 5 years.
The JTI will be established as a Joint Undertaking, with the entity being initially established for 10 years. The seat of the JTI will be Brussels. The founding members of the JTI are: the European Community, represented by the European Commission and an Industry Grouping established as an international not-for-profit association representing European industry interests. A similar grouping representing the interests of the European research community may be formed and become a member of the JTI.
A “business as usual” scenario—i.e., without the JTI— risks overall failure for a number of reasons, according to the EC:
The research needed is often so complex that no single fuel cell company or public research institution can perform it alone;
There is no agreed long-term budget plan and strategic technical and market objectives to encourage industry to commit more of their own resources;
There is insufficient integration of the EU R&D program (from fundamental research through to large-scale EU-level demonstrations); and
Technical breakthroughs are needed to improve performance and durability and reduce system costs to meet the expectations of potential customers.
In a separate action, the EC also adopted a proposal that introduces hydrogen-fueled vehicles (either combustion engine or fuel cell) in the whole vehicle type-approval framework for conventionally fueled vehicles. This means that hydrogen vehicles will be treated the same way as conventional vehicles and a single approval will be sufficient for the entire European Union.
The proposal specifies technical requirements to be applied for the type-approval of hydrogen components (hydrogen containers and hydrogen components other than containers) included in the hydrogen system in order to ensure that hydrogen related components are working in a proper and safe way.
The impact assessment accompanying the proposal concluded that adopting such an EU regulatory package could result in a saving of up to €124 million in approval costs to vehicle manufacturers in the period 2017-2025. With the establishment of the approval framework, the automotive industry could become more competitive in markets outside the EU, through taking the lead in hydrogen technology, according to the EC.
Both proposals now go to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers for consideration.