EU firms join forces to make hydrogen dream work
BRUSSELS - European car and energy firms said they were joining forces to bring hydrogen-fuelled transport closer to reality.
Royal Dutch/Shell , DaimlerChrysler , Renault and 15 other companies joined a group founded by the European Commission to keep Europe\'s hydrogen firms on track with rivals in Japan and the United States.
\"Compared with the United States and Japan, up to now we didn\'t really have a European programme,\" said Pierre Beuzit, vice-president of research at Renault.
\"One company alone is not able to develop the technology. We need to work together,\" he said.
The Commission said the group\'s role would be to advise it on introducing hydrogen as a major source of electricity and the economic impact of making the change.
A Commission statement said EU firms\' efforts to make hydrogen production viable and develop fuel cells to convert the gas into electricity were unstructured and underfunded, with 50-60 million euros ($49-59 million) of public funding a year.
U.S. government funding was about three times higher, with about 150 million euros going to the \"Freedom Car\" programme and 25-30 million euros to a smaller scheme each year.
DaimlerChrysler\'s head of environmental affairs Herbert Kohler said the EU firms had a clear expectation: \"To have at a minimum what the U.S. guys have in their Freedom Car programme.
\"The Japanese are doing similar things,\" he added.
Japanese firms receive four times more government funding for hydrogen research than EU companies, the Commission said.
Kohler said DaimlerChrysler, which unveiled its first electric vehicle almost 20 years ago and its fifth version earlier this year, was optimistic that the group would help to speed up the development of a hydrogen economy.
\"Hopefully it will bring us to a situation in 2010 or 2012 when we can drive down the street in an electric car,\" he said.
Several firms said the group would enable them to agree on how to develop infrastructure needed for making and distributing hydrogen, allowing them to overcome a \"chicken and egg\" problem.
\"Fuel cells can only prosper if there is an infrastructure and the infrastructure can only be built if fuel cells are credible,\" said Roberto Cordaro, president of Nuvera, a fuel cell firm with facilities in Massachusetts and Milan.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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