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New European Research Grouping on Fuel Cells and Hydrogen (N.ERGHY)

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The New European Research Grouping on Fuel Cells and Hydrogen represented universities and research institutes involved in the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, a programme to develop and commercialise fuel cell technologies.


The Importance of Fuel Cells and Hydrogen

The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking was a programme funded and organised by the European Union, now superseded by the second such Joint Undertaking, that aimed to develop fuel cell and hydrogen power technology towards the point where it could achieve wider market acceptance.

Fuel cells are power sources that convert the energy stored in a fuel source into electricity to power vehicles, equipment or homes, acting as an alternative to regular batteries.

The fuel used is typically hydrogen which produces power in the presence of an oxidising agent, usually oxygen itself. While fuel cells have a long history, there has been renewed recent interest in their use as a means of lowering carbon emissions.

Fuel cells offer a number of distinct advantages as a power source such as their high reliability, due to a lack of moving parts, together with their small size and light weight, which makes them portable and easy to incorporate into a wide range of devices.

Arguably even more important is their potential for use as a means of storing energy from renewable power sources such as wind or solar, allowing the electricity generated to be converted into chemical energy by creating hydrogen from water for it then to be re-converted to electricity at times of peak demand.

Finally, as a means of powering electric vehicles, they offer low emissions of nitrogen oxide and other exhaust contaminants and low carbon dioxide emissions compared to conventional fuels, which has led to them being used in vehicles ranging from forklifts to cars and even aircraft.

N.ERGHY and the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking

N.ERGHY represented over 60 different universities and other public research institutions who collaborate, together with Industry Grouping Hydrogen Europe, representing private firms in the sector, and the European Commission itself in the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, a partnership between public bodies and private enterprise that attempted to further develop fuel cell and hydrogen technology, bringing its potential advantages closer to commercial viability.

This project involved a total of 391 million euros in funding, with two-thirds going to private businesses and the remainder to the public institutions represent by N.ERGHY. This money not only funded basic research into fuel cell technology but also went towards large scale demonstration projects and commercial prototypes and market research aimed at establishing the economic and commercial viability of fuel cell and hydrogen-based products.

This project helped lead to a 10% average increase in turnover for European firms in the sector, an 8% annual increase in research funding, and a 16% annual average increase in patent applications relating to these technologies.

In the second phase of this project, the work of N.ERGHY is being continued by Hydrogen Research Europe, again representing universities and public research bodies. This new stage will involve up to 1.4 billion euros in funding.

Example Research Areas

N.ERGHY contributed towards the four main research areas of the first Joint Undertaking. These included:

  • Transport innovation. This involved road vehicles such as cars, buses, and motorbikes; non-road vehicles such as off-road equipment, ships, trains, and aircraft; refuelling facilities and infrastructure for hydrogen powered vehicles.
  • Energy innovation. This involved producing hydrogen by means of renewably-sourced electricity for energy storage to deliver the output of wind, solar, and wave generators at peak times when it is most needed; investigating low carbon methods of producing hydrogen from other sources; investigating the possibilities of recovering and using waste hydrogen from other processes in fuel cells; the safe storage, handling and distribution of hydrogen fuel cells.
  • Fuel cells to energy. This working group investigated the use of fuel cells as power plants for domestic and industrial consumers on a variety of scales from the residential to larger industrial uses.
  • The Working Group on Cross- Cutting Research Activities. This group looked at areas of commonality between both transport-orientated uses of fuel cells and stationary applications and at providing effective commercialisation pathways for Fuel Cell/Hydrogen products. This included education and awareness-raising of these technologies; examination of recycling and safety issues; looking at strategies for market awareness and the effective dissemination of fuel cell and hydrogen-based technologies.
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