University of Groningen

Individual research project: “Hydrogen for a Sustainable Mobility”



The transport sector represents a quarter of Europe’s total Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and the international maritime sector is not even included in that count. `Greening` the transport sector is, hence, the next immediate frontier of EU policy– and `green´ hydrogen can play an essential role in this process, according to the EU Hydrogen Strategy and the `Fit for 55´-package, which are both parts of the ‘European Green Deal’. The EU Hydrogen Strategy foresees the usage of ‘green’ hydrogen as a fuel primarily in the context of powertrains in heavy-duty vehicles, such as trucks, buses, ships and aircrafts. These vehicles are difficult to run on electricity and hydrogen is seen as a short- to mid-term solution. This, in turn, also affects the need for the development of hydrogen fuelling infrastructure. Hydrogen refuelling stations will be needed for the uptake of hydrogen in road-traffic (which accounts for about 70% of GHG-emissions from the transport sector) to refuel hydrogen buses, trucks and (at smaller scale) cars. Besides the need for infrastructure, the fuels as such must change and `green´ hydrogen as a sustainable transport fuel is being promoted by (inter alia) the Fuel Quality Directive and the Directive on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure (DAFI), as well as recent initiatives of 2021 under the `Fit for 55`-package, which aim particularly at aircarfts and ships. These are the revision to the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive to ensure aircraft and ships have access to clean energy supply in major ports and airports and other initiatives like ReFuelAviation and FuelEUMaritime, which outline more broadly how `green´ hydrogen can play a key role in future aviation and shipping. The project, hence, focusses on the identification of legal barriers in three areas of the transport sector: aviation, fuelling stations and shipping, as most immediate possibilities for hydrogen application in the transport sector. It will evaluate current and future legal initiatives and make suggestions for how these splintered approaches and initiatives could be streamlined and made more efficient. Moreover, it will present recommendations on how these transport sector activities in hydrogen can be better coupled to the legislative frameworks of other sectors, mainly energy and buildings, to achieve deep legal system integration. Given that EU transport legislation only provides a framework for Member States, the project will then also assess the transposition of the EU`s legal framework with a view to hydrogen in transport in the three Member States with the highest total GHG-emissions from the transport sector (Germany, France and Italy), by replying to functional legal comparative methodology. The project appraises the individual national legal frameworks for their ability to support hydrogen use in aviation, fuelling stations and shipping. By means of qualitative empirical methodology, based on semi-structured interviews, stakeholders from different transport sectors in different countries will provide deeper insights about the experienced legal barriers and possible solutions. The result shall be a distillate of legal best practices for hydrogen use in the transport sector. Overall, the project will help overcome legal barriers to a better integration of `green´ hydrogen in the transport sector in three ways: first it will make suggestions for streamlining legal initiatives in the EU, second it will make suggestions for an improved deep legal system integration of legislation affecting hydrogen in the transport sector with legislation of other sectors of hydrogen-application and third, it will uncover national best practices for hydrogen use in the transport sector and make them more easily accessible.

Planned secondment(s):

This Phd project will start at the University of Groningen (UG) where Dr. R. Fleming and Prof. Dr. L. Squintani and will help the doctoral candidate acquiring the relevant knowledge about hydrogen and transport as well as the empirical legal skill necessary to perform the qualitative and quantitative part of the PhD project. During this period, the doctoral candidate will spend 2 months at the Hydrogen Valley of the North (NEC) to build a network to perform the stakeholders interviews. During the second year of the PhD project, the candidate will then go to the University Rovira i Virgili where will spend 4 months. At URV he will receive training in the doctrinal constructivism aspects of the research project (Supervisor Prof. Cocciolo). In the third year, the doctoral candidate will go to the University of Eastern Finland (Supervisor: Prof. Talus) to complete the training by focusing on comparative research methods for 4 months and then at NRA for another 2 months.