Establishing high certification standards in an innovation industry-the case of Korea's hydrogen vehicle (fuel cell electric vehicle) certification standards
are they safe enough?
This study supports the hypothesis that Korea’s Hydrogen Vehicle Certification Standards are lower than those of leading countries in Europe and North America and that there is a need for stricter certification standards. Korea’s hydrogen vehicle standards follow the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport’s Hydrogen Vehicle Certification Standard (HVCS), which is based on the European Parliament and Council Regulation (EC) No 79, EC79 established in 2009; therefore, one can arguably conclude that the standard is outdated. The issues raised in this research are on the basis of literature works that generally report findings implying the importance of urgency in adopting international examples of hydrogen energy management and safety policy cases to bring about hydrogen safety management (Kim & Lee, 2019). Further, the cause of our research is similarly supported by research on “The Roles and Impacts of Technical Standards on Economic Growth and Implications for Innovation Policy”, where standardization is described as a catalyst for innovation (Sullivan & Dodin, 2012).
I support this argument by carrying out a comparative analysis of domestic HVCS against international Hydrogen Ground Vehicle HGV 2, Economic Commission for Europe Regulation 134 ECE 134, and Global Technical Regulation GTR) standards by experimental test category and technical test stringency. A comparative analysis is carried out using the consequent model in this research termed “impact assessment”. The impact assessment involves scaling each technical standard covering aspects of safety disruption, impact upon failure, and catastrophic levels. The hypothesis in the research analysis is effectively proven right, showing Korea HVCS are lower. Further, whether Korea is currently equipped to carry out tests of international standards is analysed, which in this research we find to be mostly positive (more of a reason to support a raise in HVCS standards.)
To further support my argument, the implication of low certification standards, technological regulation in relation to international standards in facilitating international trade and fostering technological innovation are discussed. Implications of current HVCS are explored closely in the following context 1) double-testing by corporations to meet international standards creating economic costs, 2) low standards opening up the domestic market vulnerable to low standard imports, and posing a threat to existing high quality domestic products, 3) low technical regulations slowing technological innovation.
In contrast to the position this study establishes, one can see arguments that in terms of testing category, HVCS is not entirely exclusive of the global common tests, and technological advances have seen revisions in HVCS (exemplified by the revision in hydrogen testing container pressure from 350bar to 700bar). It may also be argued that harmonization of international standards, (such as International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation ILAC, an international arrangement between member accreditation bodies based on peer evaluation and mutual acceptance), do not hold in real trade/practice setting.
Therefore, aspects such as double-testing by corporations to meet international standards is inevitable and therefore the implications of HVCS are unavoidable regardless of level of stringency in technical standards.
Further, another key counter-argument against raising HVCS standards is that international standards development, GTR 13 is an extension of the mandate for the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Vehicles Sub Group Interagency Working Group (HFCV-SGS IWG) that works to tackle the development of the remaining issues of certification tests to meet improving technologies. GTR-13 is already well under development, which would establish a set of universal standards.
This study counters these competing arguments by showing that despite GTR-13, developed countries with technological competitiveness are creating stricter standards (especially for hydrogen vehicle equipment and parts-supported by “impact assessment” in this research). While GTR-13 will take time to develop, it is important that in order for South Korea to emerge with the world’s top technologies in hydrogen vehicle equipment and parts, it must raise the bar in its technical standards to cater for innovation. The timing of standards in relation with the technology S‐curve is followed in adopting technological standards research in order “to avoid delay in the diffusion of innovation, the timescale for standards should not be longer than for the innovation process” (Sherif, IEEE Com. Mag. 2001).
Moreover, standards may be seen as evolving documents, therefore there is a need to regularly update standards to reflect new technologies, material and methods. In the hydrogen energy area, this is complicated, since research and product development is happening simultaneous to the standards development. More the reason to revise hydrogen vehicle technical standards, which we discuss in further detail in this paper.
Through the efforts made in this research, I hope to contribute to HVCS development by finding critical areas of improvement in the current technical standards. This will be achieved through the “impact assessment” in this research. Further, by illustrating the importance of technical regulations standards in fostering innovation, I hope my research will raise awareness of the need strengthen HVCS standards. Raising HVCS in Korea will give medium sized enterprises in Korea the opportunity to grow beyond subsidiaries of conglomerates. SMEs of hydrogen vehicle equipment and parts can gain sheer size and become dominant players of the global market as they expand their capacity to meet standards of international levels.
As Korea enters the 4th industrial age, more studies on technical regulations and standards influencing practices associated with research, development, manufacturing and market development will be required; consequently influencing innovation, productivity and growth (Tassey, 2017; Blind, 2009) as well as the growing hydrogen economy in the future could take the contributions made in this research further forward.
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