Zero Regio stands for Zero Emission Regions and was an integrated hydrogen demonstration project. the aim of the project was to develop a transport system based on hydrogen driven fuel-cell cars and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure in two European regions: Frankfurt in Germany and Lombardia in Italy.
Supported by the 6th Framework Programme of the European Commission, hydrogen infrastructure including hydrogen refuelling stations was built and tested with dedicated car fleets in the Rhein-Main and Lombardia regions during the five years of the project. Members were different companies and institutions from four Member States of the European Union.
With an overall objective of developing low-emission transport systems for European cities, the specific objectives of the project ZERO REGIO were:
- use of hydrogen as an alternative motor fuel, produced as primary or waste stream in a chemical plant or alternatively through small 'on-site' production facilities;
- development of infrastructure systems for hydrogen consisting of hydrogen production, compression, storage and distribution equipment and integration of these in conventional refuelling stations;
- adaptation and demonstration of 700 bar refuelling technology for hydrogen;
- demonstration of hydrogen as an alternative fuel via automobile-fleet field tests at two different urban locations in the EU, Rhein-Main, Germany, and Lombardia, Italy;
- showing ways and prospects for faster penetration of hydrogen as a zero-emission alternative motor fuel in the transportation market at short and medium term.
Experience gained during the field tests and results obtained in this project would contribute to the objective of the European Commission of 5% substitution by hydrogen as an alternative motor fuel in the road transport sector by the year 2020.
The infrastructure for fuel transport from source to the station was implemented in the project. For hydrogen different transport solutions were addressed: pipelining and trailers from a centralised production facility as well as local on-site production. Car fleets were delivered and implemented by the automobile manufacturers Daimler and Fiat. Field tests with the low-emission vehicles were performed by Infraserv, TÜV and airport authorities in the Rhein-Main region. The car fleets served for local deliveries, post distributions, taxi operations, passenger transfer etc. Technical as well as socio-economic evaluations of field tests led to suggestions and models for faster penetration of alternative motor fuels over larger urban areas in the EU.
The work on the project will be conducted in two phases and will encompass the following tasks:
1. Phase I - Design & Construction of Infrastructure (2005 -2006):
- transport & distribution of H2 in Frankfurt;
- production and distribution in Mantova;
- approval and building of multifuel service stations;
- integration in conventional service stations.
2. Phase II -Demonstration (2007-2009):
- fleet acquisition and training;
- data collection;
- data evaluation - technical & socio-economic;
- dissemination & exploitation of results.
Significant results from Zero Regio can be summarised as follows:
- By-product hydrogen from chlorine electrolysis plants is suitable for fuel cell vehicles and should be exploited more.
- Transport of hydrogen with high pressure pipelines is technically feasible.
- Hydrogen refuelling at 350 bar has reached the maturity required in practice.
- Quick refuelling (3 min. for 5 kg) at 700 bar is functional and needs to be demonstrated in daily practice.
- Approval formalities for hydrogen refuelling in Italy have been more complex and time-consuming than those in Germany.
- This calls for initiatives to harmonise approval practices in Europe.
- Fuel cell vehicles (A-Class F-CELL and New Panda) performed very well.
- FCV’s in Italy could be homologated only for storage pressures up to 200 bar. Approval formalities for hydrogen vehilcles also must be harmonised all over Europe.
- There seem to be no fundamental acceptance problems for hydrogen as motor fuel.
- Economic study reveals that at a crude oil price of 90-100 $/barrel and a tax level of €15/GJ hydrogen would be competitive to petrol or diesel based on the same distance driven.
The Zero-Regio Project has demonstrated the workability and problems of fuel cell and hydrogen (FCH) technology in car transport in everyday use. However, there are still important technological breakthroughs that must be achieved for the fuel cell technology to be a realistic option for mass production. Fuel cells and electrolysers share technologies, as an electrolyser in principle is a reverse fuel cell.
For both groups of technologies, it is necessary to find low cost and durable materials that can make them affordable to a wider market segment. Reducing costs of light-weight tanks capable of storing hydrogen under very high pressure and development of other storage technologies are other high priority efforts in research and development.
The actual timing of introduction of hydrogen as a transport fuel is not critical to most of the questions addressed in the study. Actually, most of the socioeconomic benefits of a partial shift from petrol and diesel to hydrogen should rather be seen in the perspective of several decades.
It should also be noted that the hydrogen and fuel cell technologies are developed for other than automotive uses as well. Commercial opportunities for fuel cells are already identified and exploited in 'early' niche markets such as forklifts, in emergency power generators back-up, in portable equipment and in stationary use as combined heat and power units. Synergies between innovative progresses in these different fields must be expected to advance the technology development for Fuel cell electric vehicles.
The changes in EU energy taxation rules that would enable and stimulate the economy to produce and use hydrogen could include:
- splitting the fuel taxes in an energy component and a CO2 component;
- taxing all CO2 emissions (and other GHG emissions) that are not subject to the ETS directive at a rate corresponding to the EUA price (e.g., by annual adjustment);
- raising the minimum energy tax to a higher level that could anticipate future increases in the oil and gas price making the most energy intensive economies and sectors more robust to these developments;
- dismantling exemptions, reduced rates and reimbursements of fuel taxes and energy related VAT as well as direct subsidies and environmental cost coverage from government;
- recycling the revenue to the households and industries generating it, but according to other distribution keys (preferably basic needs and value added, respectively);
- transport related taxes can be recycled according to commuting needs (distance from home to job), other taxes as an equal amount per person.