A hydrogen-powered car

Hydrogen vehicles producing zero harmful emissions could be the answer to rising problems with urban pollution – now they will be seen on the streets of London, Paris and Brussels

A new 26m euros project will deploy 180 hydrogen-fuelled vehicles as taxis, private-hire vehicles and police cars across three European capitals.

Known as ZEFER (Zero Emission Fleet Vehicles for European Roll-out), the test will be carried out in in Paris, Brussels and London to examine the feasibility and business case for adopting hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) – which run on renewable sources – in other cities.

They will be used in applications where hydrogen vehicles are believed to be most valuable – fleets that drive long distances every day, need rapid refuelling and operate in polluted city centres.

The experiment will be delivered by a consortium led by Cambridge energy consultancy Element Energy, working alongside hydrogen suppliers Air Liquide and ITM Power Trading Ltd, as well as environmentally-friendly private taxi service Green Tomato Cars.

Hydrogen-fuelled cars
French hydrogen supplier Air Liquide is among the companies supporting the rollout of hydrogen-fuelled cars

The Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), a public-private partnership supporting fuel cell and hydrogen energy technologies in Europe, is also putting up five million euros for the project.

Element Energy director Ben Madden said: “The increasingly widespread hydrogen infrastructure network in leading European cities, as well as new FCEV models from manufacturers, are beginning to drive real market adoption.

“We are excited to see the first large-scale users starting to take up the technology in large fleets to do the day-to-day work of vehicles which operate in urban centres.”

How hydrogen-fuelled vehicles work

FCEVs run on hydrogen gas, which is transformed into electricity by a fuel cell, powering the vehicle at the cost of no emissions other than water.

Taxis, private-hire companies and the police stand to benefit from FCEVs’ three-minute refuel time, 300 to 400-mile range and zero harmful emissions output as they race through both fuel and mileage in heavily polluted city centres.

Jonny Goldstone, managing director of London-based Green Tomato Cars, said: “This is a truly unique project where investors in hydrogen technology, manufacturers of hydrogen cars and Green Tomato Cars as the end users, have come together with a commitment to make hydrogen transport work for the good of the people and the environment.”

Hydrogen gas, Zero emissions
Private taxi firm Green Tomato Cars is involved in the ZEFER project


The regular use of the 180 vehicles will also create more demand for the early networks of hydrogen refuelling stations already in each city and help support the ongoing commercialisation of hydrogen as a zero-emission fuel for Europe.

They will be procured from the vehicle manufacturers able to offer state-of-the-art hydrogen fuel cell cars in Europe, with the first 25 vehicles deployed earlier this month in London by Green Tomato Cars.

Air Liquide has previously supported Hype, the world’s first hydrogen-powered taxi fleet, in 2015 and installed a hydrogen station in Brussels two years ago.

Pierre-Etienne Franc, vice-president of Air Liquide Hydrogen Energy WBU, added: “Hydrogen brings a concrete response to the challenges of sustainable mobility and local pollution in urban areas.

“There is no doubt that hydrogen will be a major pillar of our future mobility.”