Europe set to lead the way to a hydrogen-based fuel economy

Posted on 04 May 2001
Brussels, Belgium: Iceland could become the first modern economy in the world to run free of fossil fuels. According to a joint WWF- Iceland Nature Conservation Association report, Iceland could power up to 40 per cent of its cars and fishing vessels with hydrogen by 2020, and have a 100 per cent hydrogen based transport system within 35 years.

Hydrogen would be produced from water - using renewable energy, such as from Iceland's existing hydropower and future off-shore wind power, to separate the hydrogen in the H20. Hydrogen will be manufactured locally overnight at hydrogen stations similar to today's petrol stations and would be ready for use the next day, cutting out distribution costs.

The report states that the substitution of fossil fuels with renewably generated hydrogen is both technologically and economically feasible. Iceland already has enough electricity to replace 22 per cent of the fossil fuels consumed in the transport sector and fishing fleets with hydrogen. Additional power could be generated by 240 off-shore wind developments.

The transition will result in considerable savings. Iceland has already a foreign trade deficit of about 10 per cent of its GDP and the import of fossil fuel accounts for a quarter of it.

"Hydrogen is the fuel of the future" said Giulio Volpi of WWF's European Climate and Energy Policy Unit. But WWF believes that only hydrogen produced from renewable sources will bring real benefits. "Zero or near-zero emissions of greenhouse gases can only be achieved by hydrogen produced from renewable energy, such as hydro, wind or biomass. In contrast, gasoline-based fuel cells will bring little or no benefits to the climate".

WWF urges the EU to increase efforts to perfect hydrogen-powered vehicles. Funding will need to focus on two key challenges: how to store hydrogen on board vehicles and how to develop the infrastructure to supply hydrogen to the consumers.

Although Iceland may become the first 'fossil free' modern economy there are other hydrogen projects elsewhere in Europe - including hydrogen-fuelled buses at Munich Airport, and pilot fuel cell buses in Berlin, Copenhagen and Lisbon.

For further information, contact: Julian Scola, Press Officer, WWF European Policy Office. Tel: +32 2 743 8806. E-mail: