10 October, 2007
In a joint press conference on 10 October, EU Commission Vice-President Verheugen and research commissioner Potocnik presented two new initiatives to accelerate research and development of hydrogen cars. A uniform EU-wide market approval system and a new public-private partnership (the “Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative“) with a financial EU contribution of 470 million euros is supposed to bring hydrogen cars to the European market by 2015-20.
What was remarkable in the press conference was the caution of Günther Verheugen saying openly that he was not sure that hydrogen would be the future of cars and stating in response to one of my own questions that he sees a lot of potential for electric cars. But, “the car of the future will not run on fossil fuels”, Verheugen said. The Vice-President also underlined at least twice that the hydrogen for cars will have to come from non-fossil fuel sources. On the other hand, when asked if it could be produced by nuclear, the commissioner evaded a direct response stating that he “personally” opposes nuclear power but that the Commission has no anti-nuclear policy and therefore would accept hydrogen produced from that source.
More importantly, Verheugen made it absolutely clear that the EU in the future should not finance the hydrogen infrastructure (“the hydrogen producers have the responsibility to take care of their distribution system”). It is questionable whether car makers will want to develop hydrogen cars when there will not be any governmental subsidies for the very expensive distribution networks that will need to be built.Author : Willy De Backer