Clean Vehicles & Air Quality Working Group talk hydrogen! 

Hydrogen is receiving rising attention in Europe and around the world- including the transport sector. While it is seen as a viable alternative to fossil fuels, many questions remain. POLIS' Clean Vehicles & Air Quality Working Group convened to discuss everything we need to know about the future of hydrogen for mobility. 

The European Union has emphasised the importance of hydrogen in its Green Deal ambitions, forecasting the share of hydrogen in Europe’s energy mix to grow from 2% to 13-14% by 2050. As Europe’s recovery plan calls for renewed focus on clean fuels to support the post COVID-19 restoration, public and private mobility stakeholders are turning their attention to hydrogen.  

However, while investments in the fuel are growing, there remains much to be done to harness hydrogen for widespread use. Utilising upcoming opportunities effectively requires understanding the fuel’s benefits, the current (and future) policy landscape, and drawing from those who have begun to trial its usage.  

To support POLIS members in this design and deployment process, the Clean Vehicles & Air Quality Working Group met on 4 May to discuss the future of hydrogen, traverse concepts, strategies, available funding and hear members’ stance on the subject.  

It was a fascinating discussion, which prompted many questions from participants, who were keen to find out more about the potential of hydrogen to transform the transport sector and its relationships to electrification options.  

“This is an exploratory meeting,” said Sabina Asanova when opening the meeting. Assessing the pros and cons, what technologies are available, and what is currently underway.” 

POLIS departs from the following position: 

  • Hydrogen should be considered for heavy-duty vehicles only: buses, coaches, trucks 
  • Hydrogen is of relevance for interurban or interregional travels as well as long-distance, but less for urban transportation 
  • Only green hydrogen can be considered (which is today only a mere part of all produced hydrogen in Europe) 

Hydrogen: Back to basics 

The session began with an exploration of hydrogen and its current role in Europe’s energy mix.  

François Kalaydjian, Director of the Research Division "Economics and Technology Intelligence" and coordinator of the Hydrogen topic at IFPEN, provided a comprehensive overview of the different types of hydrogen and their use in the transport sector. 

Hydrogen, in itself, is a clean fuel. Manufacturing hydrogen fuel, however, is energy-intensive and has carbon by-products. The process for producing grey hydrogen from natural gas produces carbon waste. Blue hydrogen uses carbon capture and storage for the greenhouse gases produced in the creation of grey hydrogen. 


Available funding for hydrogen projects 

Participants were also given the chance to learn about current financial assistance and funding tools available from Horizon Europe for mobility stakeholders. 

Sabrine Skiker, presented the Hydrogen Europe and funding innovation programme. This is a public-private cooperation, using European Commission allocated budget of 1bn€ for the next 7 years, matched by contributions from private partners, it aims to accelerate the commercial maturity of individual hydrogen technologies across transport, heating & power, and industry. 


Approach of cities and regions toward hydrogen 

Embarking on the process of deploying hydrogen can be a complex operation. The meeting was a chance for participants to hear from those who have begun to introduce hydrogen into their mobility services and the current partnerships being established.  

To provide an overview of how cities and regions can take a leading role in the deployment of hydrogen, Mara Bubberman from The European Hydrogen Valleys Partnership presented some of the activities currently underway.   

Over the last two years, the partnership- which has 51 regional and local members-has launched a mapped process, to explore capacity for collaboration and deployment of hydrogen. 


Going local: How individual regions are pioneering hydrogen use 

South Holland  

Following this, Frank Appelman from South Holland presented how the region is pioneering new hydrogen technologies through the Rhine Hydrogen Integration Network of Excellence (RH2INE) project.  

The project, bringing together 28 partners, is an initiative of the Province of Zuid-Holland and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitization and Energy of North Rhine-Westphalia- supported by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. 


POLIS member city, Stuttgart is at the forefront of clean fuel pilots, and hosts 4 hydrogen fueled buses.  

Markus Wiedemann presented the CUTE project, an initiative pioneering hydrogen fueled buses across many European cities, as well as S-presso, a Citaro FuelCell Hybrid bus project.  


Why and why not? The relevance of hydrogen for cities and regions- The panel debate! 

Navigating the pros and cons of introducing hydrogen into the mobility energy mix can be a difficult process for many cities and regions. To begin to explore this, the meeting brought together a panel of experts including: 

  • European Hydrogen Valleys Partnership 
  • Sabrine Skiker, Hydrogen Europe 
  • Michał Kubicki (DG MOVE), the European Commission 


Key takeaways from the meeting: 

  1. Regions and cities play central roles in pioneering new hydrogen technologies. The European Commission is establishing a range of support mechanisms, but see regions and cities as primary players.  
  2. There are a range of projects and funding initiatives being established to support development and deployment, with the support of the European commission and national initiatives.  
  3. Currently, Hydrogen is most relevant for heavy duty vehicles and many projects are trailing the fuel in bus transport.  
  4. Hydrogen is just one technology which will play a role in pursuing climate neutrality in the transport sector. Electrification and battery power are also important. Comparing and assessing how these alternative power sources can be used together most efficiently is critical. 



About the POLIS Clean Vehicles and Air Quality Working Group

This group addresses major challenges related to air quality and current developments in the field of clean and sustainable transportation within our cities. To find out more, please contact Gabriela Barrera or Sabina Asanova.


Want to know more about our working groups?

POLIS working groups bring our members together to discuss the leading urban mobility issues, share best practices and debate the way forward. Our Working Group meetings are open to POLIS members only, For more information regarding membership please contact our Membership Manager, Pasquale Cancellara.