The European Parliament has formally adopted new regulations mandating hydrogen filling stations every 200km along the EU’s core roads by 2031, as well as a second rule that will force operators of seaborne vessels to use at least 1% of renewable energy-derived fuels by 2034, bringing both targets closer to becoming a reality.

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The adoption is the penultimate step towards the rules coming into force — which is likely to happen early next year following the formal adoption by the European Council, expected by the end of July.

Political agreement each of the laws — the regulation on alternative fuels infrastructure (AFIR) and the regulation on sustainable maritime fuels (SMF), which incorporates the FuelEU Maritime initiative — was reached between the European Parliament and Council in March, making the adoption a mere formality.

AFIR passed by 514 votes in favour and 52 votes against, while SMF passed with 555 votes in favour and 48 against.

The SMF regulation will force vessel operators to use at least 1% of renewable fuels of biological origin (RFNBOs) — typically green hydrogen and its derivatives such as green ammonia and green methanol — by 2034, with the target rising to 2% if the European Commission finds by 2031 that sector is not on track to meet the 1% target.

The regulation also slaps a new greenhouse gas emissions reduction target on the shipping sector as a whole, including a 2% reduction on 2020 levels by 2025, ratcheting up to 80% by 2050.

Crucially, the rule will allow ship operators to count the greenhouse gas savings of RFNBOs twice until the end of 2033, as a means of further incentivising early uptake of the fuel.

The rules will only apply to ships with gross tonnage of more than 5,000, which the EU says accounts for 90% of the bloc’s maritime emissions.

The AFIR, meanwhile, puts an expectation on member states to enable the deployment of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure in all “urban nodes” — an EU term for 424 major cities in the bloc with ports, airports and rail terminals — and every 200km along the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), which links these urban nodes.

TEN-T filling stations should be located either by the roadside, or within a 10km driving distance of a TEN-T exit.

In recognition of the lower likelihood of lighter vehicles using hydrogen as a fuel, the AFIR rules stipulate that filling stations should focus on heavy duty trucks, but also allow public access for lighter vehicles.

“At this early stage of market deployment there is still a degree of uncertainty with regard to the kind of vehicles that will come onto the market and to the kind of technologies that will be widely used,” the regulation states. “In the hydrogen strategy… the heavy-duty segment was identified as the most likely segment for the early mass deployment of hydrogen-powered vehicles. Therefore, hydrogen refuelling infrastructure should focus on that segment initially.”

Hydrogen should be available in gaseous form at pressures of 700 bar, but operators should also develop their sites to be able to adapt to newer forms of H2 delivery — such as liquefied hydrogen — should demand for it grow in future.

Additional rules for electric vehicle chargers have also been mandated, including charging stations for electric cars every 60km by 2026 and for electric trucks and buses every 120km by 2028.