Date: Thu, 18 Feb 1999 23:34:26 -0600 (CST)
From: Mark Graffis <>
Subject: Iceland heads to `hydrogen economy'
Article: 55332
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

DaimlerChrysler, Shell join plan aiming to replace fossil fuels

By Miguel Llanos, MSNBC, 17 February 1999

Reykjavik, Iceland's capital, could also become the world's capital for a hydrogen economy if a new joint venture works.

Feb. 17— With Iceland's blessing, DaimlerChrysler and Shell on Wednesday announced plans to try to turn the tiny country into the world's first hydrogen economy eventually replacing gasoline and diesel on all of its cars, buses and fishing fleet with nonpolluting hydrogen.

THIS IS A great opportunity for industry and government to jointly create an innovative and future-oriented program, said Ferdinand Panik, DaimlerChrysler's director for fuel cells, which combined with hydrogen or other fuel sources could eventually replace the internal combustion engine. The Icelandic approach may become a pioneering example of sustainable economic and industrial development.

Hydrogen has been heralded as a way to improve vehicle efficiency by 50 percent while eliminating exhaust emissions, but the development costs have so far prohibited more than a few pilot projects worldwide. Fuel cells, when used with hydrogen, generate electricity directly from a chemical reaction between the hydrogen and oxygen that's produced by a catalyst. The only emission is water.

The new project has the complete blessing of Iceland's government, with Environment Minister Gudmundur Bjarnason calling the choice of location for this project an acknowledgement of Iceland's distinctive status and long-term potential.


The joint venture, called the Icelandic Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Co., hopes to have a hydrogen-based bus service within a year or two running through Iceland's capital, Reykjavik, with additional projects being introduced by 2002. DaimlerChrysler had earlier announced its intention to mass-produce fuel cell vehicles by 2005. And Shell recently created a hydrogen business and developed technology to convert liquid fuels into a hydrogen-rich gas. The other companies in the joint venture are Norway's Norsk Hydro and Vistorka, a consortium of Icelandic companies.


Iceland&s interest in hydrogen stems not from any air pollution—which is minimal on the sparsely populated island—but from its commitment to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases that many scientists and policymakers fear are warming the Earth.

And while the island is home to just 260,000 people, Iceland's environment ministry notes that per capita emissions are high due to a relatively large fishing fleet offshore and trucks that crisscross the island.

Moreover, Iceland will have a comparatively harder time than other countries that pledged to reduce emissions from 1990 levels because it had already made drastic cuts—about 75 percent—in the 1970s and 1980s.

Iceland already relies on clean and renewable energy sources for about two thirds of its total energy needs, by far the highest proportion of any European country, the ministry notes. The key nonpolluting sources are hydro energy for electricity and geothermal energy for heating.

Iceland might also become a key hydrogen player in another way: exporting it to Europe's first hydrogen station. [16]Opened last month in Hamburg, Germany, the station expects to eventually buy its hydrogen supplies from Iceland.