The European Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Platform identified the importance of joining all the research and demonstration projects in a coordinated, coherent, stable and flexible framework to accelerate the commercialisation of hydrogen and fuel cells, mainly in transport in Europe. Two strategically important projects were launched by the European Commission in preparation of this important phase of the transition to hydrogen as fuel and long-term renewable energy carrier. One of them, HyLights, monitors concluded/ongoing demonstration projects and assists the planning of the next demonstration project phase, putting a clear focus on hydrogen in transport.
HyLights was a coordination action that comprised five tasks:
- develop an assessment framework for concluded/ongoing demonstration projects,
- analyse individual projects and establish a project database,
- carry out a gap analysis and prepare a requirement profile for the next stage projects,
- assess and identify necessary financial and legal steps in preparation of the new projects,
- develop a European partnership or interest group named Hydrogen for Transport.
HyLights comprised of 3 phases of 12 months each. Phase I included a methodology definition and assessment, Phase II gap analysis and development of recommendations and Phase III continuous monitoring. HyLights drew from a network of relevant experts. For this purpose a European Partnership for Hydrogen in Transport (EPHT) was established to extend the reach of the European Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Platform (HFP). An asset of EPHT includes the member states' or regions' view through a moderation process. Dissemination of the project results supplements the activity, coherently presenting the European demonstration projects.
Since its launch in January 2006, HyLights has carried out the following tasks, which, typical for a Coordination Action project, have been adapted to the needs of the relevant stakeholders over time:
- Assessment of concluded/ongoing demonstration projects on hydrogen for transport: Establishment of a web-based interactive and searchable demonstration project database.
- Development of a Monitoring & Assessment Framework (MAF) for the next generation large-scale demonstration projects on hydrogen for road transport under FP7/JTI: Develop handbooks for project and program level.
- GAPS analysis: Assessment of future fleet operator needs for hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles and infrastructure and input to the requirement profile for the next phase demonstration projects.
- Financial incentives and policy and legal frameworks to support the large-scale commercialization of HFC road transport technology: Assessment and identification of necessary structures in the early demonstration phase and its smooth transition to a future hydrogen and fuel cell vehicle market.
- Legal form and management structure of future demonstration projects: Identification and evaluation of the issues. Provision of initial analysis on the advantages/disadvantages of specific legal forms and management structures (IPRs, State Aid, Safety & Risk Management, Financial and Third Party Liability).
- Assessment of policy support options and needs for hydrogen vehicles and hydrogen supply including infrastructure: Consideration of regional framework conditions throughout Europe. Other similar fields of application and challenges (introduction of renewable energies) and other international approaches were analysed for valuable input.
- Regions’ activities and eligibility: Assessment of status quo
Some key findings from the demonstration projects of hydrogen on transport exercise can be named; the limited availability of vehicles, the necessity to define the project follow-up already during the set-up phase, the need for clear responsibilities for the infrastructure installations, the missing of an integrated long-term funding scheme (EU, Member States, regional) as well as the lack of vehicle and infrastructure performance data due to few vehicles and / or missing assessment and funding frameworks.
One of the most significant findings was that most projects have experienced problems in obtaining sufficient numbers of vehicles. (Early) commitment of vehicle industry and potentially bundling of resources is therefore a key especially for future large-scale demonstration projects.
In case of hydrogen refuelling stations it has been recommended that one partner alone should be made responsible for the approval, erection and operation of a station to lower the complexity of the approval procedure and operations process.
Nearly all projects do some kind of project assessment, but the degree of detail differs significantly. Therefore the utilisation of a common tool, the HyLights Monitoring and Assessment Framework (MAF), may be a practical approach or at least a robust basis for future projects.
The interviews with potential early users of hydrogen vehicles basically showed that fleet operators have not started thinking about support schemes for hydrogen or zero-emission vehicles. They are, however, keen on supporting energy efficient vehicles and have for example implemented incentives for vehicles with energy label A and B. Comparable support schemes for zero-emission vehicles can only be implemented if (additional) costs are known. Further analysis on early markets for hydrogen vehicles just based on the evaluation of stakeholder requirements, existing and foreseen support schemes and lessons learned from recent and ongoing demonstration projects is expected not to provide any relevant results on top of what has been found in the context of the HyLights project. As a next step, regions should develop concrete business plans, stating how many vehicles can be deployed at what conditions. This should include tolerance of additional costs and performance requirements.
Hydrogen specific policy support is indispensable to facilitate the market commercialisation of hydrogen vehicles. Beyond about 100 000 produced vehicles, price levels will come down to a level where they can be compensated through a set of existing policy incentives. End-users might still have to pay a premium in comparison to conventional vehicles unless those extra costs are completely allocated by means of policies. Both hydrogen vehicles and hydrogen as a fuel need to be addressed by a policy framework. However, the expected cost gap of 10 eurocent/km can be tackled by means of various existing policy instruments. Countries that already feature high taxation on conventional vehicles are in a better position to introduce or extend tax exemptions for hydrogen vehicles.
Attention at the Member State level needs to be raised urgently to start with the design and implementation of support frameworks to be in place when the JTI financed demonstrations phase out and deployment could face an abrupt halt. Gaps between policy incentives covering different deployment phases need to be avoided.
Stable support frameworks are necessary from an industry perspective to demonstrate long-term commitment for the technology, implying that preferably incentives should be budget neutral and designed in a way that they are little vulnerable to economy measures.
The challenge is to bridge the financial gap between the large-scale demonstrations and the early market phase where the cost gap is too large to be covered by means of policy support. In order to deploy the first 100 000 vehicles, regions committed to hydrogen need to emerge as early market for vehicles with the accumulated demand within a constraint area that can be supplied by limited infrastructure. Therefore regions or municipalities in liaison with relevant industry stakeholders have to position themselves and come up with a viable plan on how to introduce numbers of vehicles, which segments and how to cover finance over a period of time.
Infrastructure is a serious problem since Europe has not regulated its supply. In the absence of national infrastructure support, regions should account for necessary infrastructure in their business plans. Finally, the regional activities should raise attention at national governments to implement complex support schemes for vehicles, fuel and infrastructure.