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European Law Monitor NewsAn H2 future?

What will daily life in Europe be like in the future? The EU commission wants it to be cleaner, safer and more comfortable. It sees hydrogen as the way to go.

Oil and gas were the fuels of yesteryear. Will tomorrow's be fuel cells and hydrogen? The EU and European industry think so, and are launching a joint technology initiative to make it happen.

The new public-private partnership is to develop hydrogen technology and bring it to the market by 2020 in the automobile and transport sector as well as in other areas of daily life. The partnership is set up for six years, with funding worth almost €1bn • including €470mn from EU coffers. Hydrogen and fuel cells are potential energy sources for very many products and might soon be powering our mobile phones, laptops and heaters.

If Europe running on hydrogen is still a sci-fi fantasy, hydrogen cars are here already, some even market ready. However, marketing will be complex and costly, because these vehicles are not yet covered by the EU's approval system. The commission is therefore recommending that procedures be simplified.

While developing new energy sources is essential, it is not enough to solve all the problems facing Europe. If we are to combat climate change and protect our environment, for example, we must also have sustainable ways of getting around town. So how to tempt Europeans onto their bikes and into their walking shoes, while guaranteeing that their journey will be as safe as if they took the car?

Every year, 8 000 pedestrians and cyclists are killed on the EU's roads. The commission is proposing a raft of measures to reduce the death toll, including requiring all passenger cars to be equipped with assisted braking systems (ABS) from 2009.

With an eye to the future, the restructuring forum to be held in Brussels on 17 October will bring together 200 high-level representatives to discuss the challenges of the automotive industry and how to anticipate change.

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