Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse, Dennis Hayter, Intelligent Energy, and Bert De Colvenar from FCH JU.

Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse, Dennis Hayter, Intelligent Energy, and Bert De Colvenar from FCH JU.

Are FCEVs the better cars or would official privileges (e.g. using bus lanes) be required to turn them to game changers?

On the morning of 5 October, about 50 people interested in FCEVs were invited to exchange their thoughts and commonly evaluate the necessary next steps for market introduction of FCEVs in the UK. This VIP seminar took place in the ‘London’s Living Room’ on 9th floor of London’s City Hall. Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse who is responsible for promoting London businesses, jobs apprenticeships and economic growth grasped the opportunity of the European Hydrogen Road Tour making a stop in London to invite leading regional stakeholders of emerging FCEV technology representatives.

The VIP seminar took place in "London’s Living Room" on 9th floor of London’s City Hall – here the view from the balcony.

The VIP seminar took place in “London’s Living Room” on 9th floor of London’s City Hall – here the view from the balcony.

Kit Malthouse and Dennis Hayter from Intelligent Energy (who is also Chair of the UKHFCA) and representing the London Hydrogen Partnership reported on the needs and the achievements on the pathway to introduce hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. As part of the FCH JU funded project HyTEC, 5 FCEV cabs have been employed for several months now in London. These were used as shuttles during the Olympic and Paraolympic games in summer 2012 and celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rupert Murdoch were passengers. Not only did they appreciate this experience, but – maybe just as important – the taxi drivers enjoyed driving these cabs all day long. Having less vibration and noise for an hour or two (London traffic…) is much enjoyed by the passengers, but taxi drivers are the ones spending their entire working day usually exposed to these disturbances. Especially in London, taxi drivers are key multipliers to demonstrate how smooth and quiet FCEVs are. If more FCEV cabs will be employed, it might be reasonable to locate HRS close to where taxi drivers live or for other reasons frequently pass by. What really tops this advantage is the decision of the London authorities to make all London cabs CO2 free by 2020.

Today’s emphasis was on marketing tactics and regional focus to support the roll out of FCEVs. These were the key conclusions:

Improved market approach:

  • If you have a convincing product, the “Apple”-strategy can be extremely successful:
  • Let’s give everyone a FCEV to play with /drive it for half an hour. They won’t want to give it back. H2mS: This is the reason for our VIP and public test drives along the tour. Even though we have demonstrated seven FCEVs for now, we are working on a FCEV for everyone. Promised! (‘here today – everywhere tomorrow’).
  • Change from “green”-message to “better”-message. To the broad public, “green” sounds like “making things environmentally friendly but at a cost to comfort, i.e. just inconvenient”. So let’s not do FC technology ‘to’ them, but let’s do it ‘with and for’ them. Especially, as the driving experience in FCEVs actually is more comfortable than in conventional cars. This should be the message for selling it to the public.
  • Although everyone agrees that the driving experience is better, due to the infrastructure situation it will take some years until the overall mobility experience is comparable to conventional gasoline cars. Until then, it needs non-monetarian incentives. E.g. by opening up bus lanes for FCEVs or other measures that make the weekend longer.

Regional focus for roll out:

  • In the UK, London needs to be the catalyst for H2 mobility. As of today, 3 hydrogen stations are operational in the London area, another one is located in Swindon along the M4 corridor towards Wales.
  • Yet, London can never be a hydrogen city on its own, it will be part of a larger network.
  • How is UK different? UK is an island, on one hand ‘driving on the other side of the road’ and with the effect that people can only drive until reaching another coastline. In the rest of Europe people are more likely to drive greater distances, e.g. making a trip from Denmark to Italy. It was therefore felt that an infrastructure build-up could be easier to achieve with vehicle being ‘less dependent on neighboring countries also developing a hydrogen refueling infrastructure’.

The lively panel discussion resulted in other enchanting statements of the participants from London, the FCH JU and industry:

  • One of the next milestones to tackle: “Every pizza in London shall be delivered with a hydrogen vehicle.”
  • One of the reasons to use hydrogen instead of crude oil products: You don’t get a hydrogen spill in the sea.
  • This country just loves technology and innovation. So let’s sell these FCEVs to them. Should be a rather simple challenge.
  • Electric charging points for BEVs are quite a challenge in central London. Most people have to park on the streets. We have an alcohol problem in town. In combination, it can be envisioned that it were great fun for drunken people to walk around and unplug all the cars.

The discussion also addressed other issues such as the use of hydrogen for large scale energy storage (from fluctuating wind energy) in underground salt storage caverns, a technology demonstrated for hydrogen as chemical storage in Teesside, the only such location in Europe. This additional scope has apparently been well understood by major actors. A related issue, raised by industry, is the development of decentral storage schemes, with residential energy generation by CHP fuel cells and use as transport fuels, at the same time offering load management options. This would specifically applicable to new development projects also in London, such as in the Stratford quarters.

In discussing the ambition why fuel cells and hydrogen were to be used in UK transport strong arguments were raised by several speakers in overwhelming agreement, i.e.

  1. fossil fuels can be taken out of the earth only once. Also, they can also be spent only once. It was felt that better applications do exist instead of simply burning them, such as production of plastics or pharmaceuticals.
  2. 200 billion € are spent by Europe on fossil fuels each year. Using that money for value creation within Europe should definitely be the preferred and sustainable option
  3. Finally, competitiveness of industry is becoming an increasingly important issue for Europe, re-industrialization a general topic of interest.


Bert De Colvenaer, Director of FCH JU, painted a generic road map for cities when considering to embrace fuel cells and hydrogen for transport. Before becoming a demonstration site, the following questions need to be answered positively:

  • Are approval/admission/certification procedures/regulations in place?
  • The first ‘commercial’ fuel cell electric vehicles (claim independent of individual automobile manufacturers) are posed to arrive by 2015+ and they will need to find customers in the ten thousands. Is the city/municipality prepared to take up these vehicles in significant numbers?
  • Is the trend of re-urbanisation visible in this region/municipality?

Bert De Colvenaer was also confident that the current FCH JU under FP7 will have a second life within the coming Horizons 2020 program, even though the budget may not grow extensively. Seen from a European perspective his impression was that the UK H2 Mobility initiative is very relevant, as it tries to solve the chicken-egg problem by involving industry (automobile manufacturers, suppliers and infrastructure providers) as well as the public sector simultaneously, much like the German H2 Mobility initiative.

Another suggestion was welcomed by supporting nods on all sides; the investment needs to get involved and here London plays of course a very central role. Actually, only two representatives from the investment sector participated are in the room, whereas it would have been supportive in the early preparation for commercialization if half the guest had been from that sector. A strong suggestion therefore was to organize investor meetings specifically addressing this group in the near future, using the backing from the automobile industry.

Finally, the safety of fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen as a fuel was addressed as major hurdle through poor public perception. Though the experts are already convinced, even believing that hydrogen is a safer option than most of the liquid fuels based on safety records, the public has to be educated. As a potential formula 1 racing class with FCEVs was mentioned as one of different highly visible options in the public.


Hydrogen in London – Dennis Hayter, Chair UKHFCA & VPIntelligent Energy

Fuel Cells & H2: Towards Commercial Deployment – Bert de Colvenaer, Executive Director, FCH JU

Ride&Drive in London

The London Public Ride & Drive – close to London Eye (Consert Hall Approach).

The London Public Ride & Drive – close to London Eye (Consert Hall Approach).

Besides the semminar, there was an opportunity for the public to test drive the FCEVs in London. Here are some pictures from that event.