Brussels, 11 Mar 2003
A recent study has concluded that hydrogen powered cars will not perform better than hybrid diesel-electric vehicles in terms of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions until after 2020.
The work was carried out by researchers from the laboratory for energy and the environment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who predicted the progress of a variety of engine and fuel technologies by 2020 based on intense research, but not allowing for major 'breakthroughs'.
Their final assessment is that, in the short term, aggressive research on a hybrid car with a diesel engine will yield the most environmentally friendly results. This is due to the fact that currently, converting hydrocarbons into hydrogen for fuel uses substantial amounts of energy and emits greenhouse gases.
'Ignoring the emissions and energy use involved in making and delivering the fuel and manufacturing the vehicle gives a misleading impression,' says Malcolm Weiss, senior researcher at MIT.
However, the study does not advocate stopping research into hydrogen fuel cells: 'If auto systems with significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions are required in, say, 30 to 50 years, hydrogen is the only major fuel option identified to date,' explains John Heywood, Director of MIT's laboratory for 21st century energy.
The EU and United States recently announced that they would be signing an agreement to formalise research cooperation in the field of hydrogen fuel technology. This followed the recent investment of 1.2 billion US dollars over five years by the Bush administration to further develop hydrogen fuel cells for cars.
Some 610 million euro is available for research projects carried out under the Sixth Framework Programme into sustainable surface transport.
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