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UNECE adopts global technical regulation on the safety of hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles

Published: 27 June 2013

UNECE’s World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) adopted on 27 June a United Nations Global Technical Regulation (UN GTR) governing the safety of hydrogen and fuel cell-powered vehicles (HFCVs). This new UN GTR represents the first international legislation in this field

HFCVs can use either internal combustion engines fuelled by liquefied hydrogen or fuel-cells fuelled by compressed gaseous hydrogen. Hydrogen fuelled vehicles are typically powered by fuel-cell power systems which generate electric power electrochemically. The UN GTR specifies provisions to ensure that such vehicles attain the same safety level as conventional gasoline vehicles.

The new UN GTR specifies safety-related performance requirements for HFCVs, aiming at protecting occupants from fire or explosion of the hydrogen on-board containers. It also includes requirements to prevent electric shock to occupants or first responders in case of a crash.

The high-voltage safety provisions adopted today for HFCVs can be used in the future UN GTR that the World Forum is preparing to encompass all types of electric vehicles (irrespective of the technology used to generate power).

The adoption of this new UN GTR could help foster interest in HFCVs, in view of the potential benefits of this technology with regards to:

Energy efficiency. Thanks to the elimination of the engine’s mobile parts, such as pistons, HFCVs generally achieve between 40–60% energy efficiency, compared to 25% in conventional internal combustion engine vehicles.

Emissions reduction. HFCVs do not produce harmful tailpipe emissions. They could thus help reduce vehicles’ emissions of harmful gaseous pollutants, provided some bottlenecks are overcome. These include: (i) the safe and economically-sound mass production of hydrogen from other sources than fossil fuels, (ii) the development of refuelling infrastructures and (iii) safe mass-scale transportation of hydrogen.

The text of the UN GTR, which takes into account existing standards and regulations from Canada, China, the European Union, Japan, Korea and the United States, is available at:


For more information, please contact:

Edoardo Gianotti
Secretary of the Working Party on Passive Safety
Phone: +41 (0) 22 917 2422



Note to editors

Hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs) have an electric drive train powered by a fuel cell that generates electric power electrochemically using hydrogen. In general, HFCVs are equipped with other advanced technologies that increase efficiency, such as regenerative braking systems that capture the kinetic energy lost during braking and store it in a battery or ultra-capacitors. While the various HFCVs are likely to differ in the details of the systems and hardware/software implementations, the following major systems are common to most HFCVs: Hydrogen fuelling system; Hydrogen storage system; Hydrogen fuel delivery system; Fuel cell system; Electric propulsion and power management system.

HFCVs, having an operating voltage of up to 400 volts, are considered high voltage electric devices. Conventional electric vehicles use batteries wired in series to create around 144 volts.

United Nations Global Technical Regulations (UN GTRs) contain globally harmonized performance-related requirements and test procedures. They provide a predictable regulatory framework for the global automotive industry and consumer associations. They do not contain administrative provisions for type approvals and their mutual recognition.

The World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) is a permanent working party in the institutional framework of the United Nations, serviced by in the framework of UNECE’s Inland Transport Committee. Any member country of the United Nations and any regional economic integration organization, set up by country members of the United Nations, may participate fully in the activities of the World Forum and may become a contracting party to the Agreements on vehicles administered by the World Forum. WP.29 offers a unique framework for globally harmonized regulations on vehicles. The benefits of such harmonized regulations are tangible in road safety, environmental protection and trade.

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Information Unit

Palais des Nations, 

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Tel.: +41 (0) 22 917 44 44

Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 05 05