Fuel cells have the potential to offer an alternative propulsion system to convential internal combustion engines used in transportation at the present time. As a result fuel cells may provide consumers a cleaner and more efficient technology. Fuel cells are powered with hydrogen fuel which can be produced from various energy sources, which include renewable sources of energy or conventional fossil fuel. Thus, the emerging hydrogen infrastructure needs to be addressed carefully.
A consortium of industries, research institutes and several European cities launched the EU-project CUTE (Clean Urban Transport in Europe), whose aim is not only to develop and demonstrate 30 fuel cell busses and the accompanying infrastructure in 10 European cities, but also assess the environmental impacts. Within the project scope the potential of fuel cell powered transport systems for reducing environmental influences such as greenhouse effect, improving the quality of the atmosphere and conserving fossil resources is assessed. This first large scale test run of fuel cell transportation systems is the best possible information base to give real life numbers about environmental impacts of a fuel cell system including hydrogen used as fuel.
Meanwhile the use of hydrogen fuel is mostly considered as environmental friendly. However a statement about the actual environmental impacts is only possible by regarding the entire Life Cycle of the hydrogen, which include its production and use. Within CUTE different routes of the hydrogen production have been assessed: hydrogen production via electrolysis and steam reforming, considering different boundary conditions, e.g. country specific energy production/ supply, different ways for electricity production (e.g. wind power, geothermal energy etc.) etc.
This presentation will show the environmental footprint of these routes (Life Cycle Assessment results), which enable the comparison of the environmental impacts of the different hydrogen production routes and the transportation system considering the total life cycle (production of FC bus, operation and end of life) along with diesel and natural gas as “conventional” fuels for bus operation.