Vätgasens historia i Sverige: Aktörer och aktiviteter inom vätgas- och bränslecellsområdet mellan 1960 och 2005
Higher oil prices, climate changes and problems with poor local air quality is leading to an intensified debate on alternative fuels. Hydrogen is one of them. In Sweden the history of hydrogen can be traced several decades back, but the different activities have uptil now never been surveyed and documented.
The objective of this study was to describe and raise awareness of activities and actors in the field of hydrogen and fuel cells in Sweden between 1960 and 2005, focusing on hydrogen as an alternative fuel for vehicles. Through historical studies of how new technologies have been perceived, considered, developed and introduced, new knowledge about the dynamics of that kind of processes can be created. A look back in time can help us notice that what is happening today, in many ways are steps in a process that started many decades ago. Hence, the lessons learnt from successful and failed projects can be transfered to the actors of current or future hydrogen projects or activities.
During the study, planned and completed activities have been identified and described, e.g. technology survey, research, development work, demonstrations and building of contact networks, together with involved actors and individuals. The investigation was based on litterature studies and interviews with more than 25 persons that have been working in the field during the period.
The result of the study shows that the hydrogen history in Sweden is long and that there have been many activities during the years, even if the level of interest has varied. There was an interest in hydrogen vehicles already in the 60´s when ASEA carried out a fuel cell R&D programme and was one of the leading companies in the world. The competence from ASEA was later transfered to the Royal Institute of Technology, which has been one of the key players in the history. The Swedish Govenment started to support hydrogen avtivities in 1975 when the first energy research programme started, as a result of the oil crisis. The main activities then were technology surveys, international collaboration and research projects. There has been research on both production and storage technologies, as well as the use of hydrogen in either vehicles with combustion engines or fuel cells. The first hydrogen fueled car was demonstrated in 1985 in Härnösand, on the initiative of a local entrepreneur. This was followed by initiatives in several other cities to demonstrate bus fleets for public transportation. The Govenment supported some pre-studies, but none of the projects were realized. Durung the 70´s and 80´s the focus was on hydrogen powered combustion engines. The interest in fuel cell vehicles started to increase at the end of the 90´s, as it did in many other countries. At that time some large fuel cell programmes were initiated, based on the Swedish competence that had been built up during many years of research. As a result two fuel cell companies were founded. The increased interest at this time also resulted in that demonstrations were planned in several cities, e.g. Sundsvall, Malmö, Göteborg, Visby, Stockholm and Karlstad. Two of the projects have been realized. The first was located to Malmö where the first Swedish hydrogen refueling station was inaugurated in 2003 and a hythane bus fleet has been demonstrated since then. The second was the CUTE-project in Stockholm where the first fuel cell busses were demonstated during 2003-2005.
Some reflections can be made on the Swedish hydrogen history. (1) There have been activities in the field during at least 45 years. (2) Most of the activities can be caracteriezed as technology studies or research, while there have not been so many demonstrations. (3) In most cases the first intiative to demonstrate vehicles have come from small local actors, while the majority of projects that have been realized have been strongly supported by large actors. (4) Several times there have been very high expectations from the project participants on the potential of hydrogen as an economically competitive fuel. These projects would probably have had a better chance of succeeding if smaller fleets had been investigated. (5) The amount of actors in the field has been limited and the most of them know each other. Therefore it might have been hard for new actors to enter the network. (6) The Swedish Government has on several occations defined hydrogen as a fuel interesting only in a longer timeframe. That may have contributed to a situation where it have been difficult for the authorities and companies to make priorities and long term commitments.