In 2019, the transport industry accounted for around one-third which is 31 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions in France. The ministry has previously said that it intends to lower this amount, namely through supporting low-carbon hydrogen in the transportation sector.
Aside from heavy-duty transportation, one of the most potential routes is car fleets, beginning with taxis.
“Hydrogen delivers genuine operational efficiency for random intensive users like taxis,” said Hype CEO Mathieu Gardies in an interview with EURACTIV.
Gardies began his company in Paris in 2015, constructing a fleet of taxis driven by a hydrogen-fueled fuel cell. These taxis can compete with combustion engines in terms of performance since they can go 500-700 kilometres before needing a refill, which takes only five minutes.
The CEO also established a refill station in Paris that delivers “blue hydrogen,” which means that its production generates CO2, which is caught, stored, and reused. Gardies noted that “all manufacturing plants in which we invest are green hydrogen generation” created by electrolysis of water using renewable energy.
By June 2023, Hype intends to order a dozen stations from its collaborators in the Ile-de-France area, each with a capacity of one tonne per day of locally produced green hydrogen. By 2022, the taxi fleet should include more than 700 hydrogen taxis.
A station every 150 kilometres
In addition to developing a national policy for decarbonised hydrogen, France recently approved legislation requiring fleets of more than 100 cars to be replaced with a quota of low-emission vehicles. This translates to 10 per cent of the fleet by 2025 and 35 per cent by 2029 – either electric or hydrogen. Taxis and chauffeur-driven cars are particularly vulnerable.
At the EU level, the proposed legislation on alternate energy infrastructure deployment envisions the installation of hydrogen filling stations every 150 kilometres on important roadways by 2025.
These legal subsidies promote hydrogen taxi fleet initiatives, which are gaining traction across Europe. The Clean Hydrogen Partnership, which includes the European Commission, the fuel cell and hydrogen sectors, and a research community, has undertaken various projects, including Zefer, a project to deploy 180 fuel cell electric vehicles in Paris, London, and Copenhagen.
“Hydrogen is the best fuel for taxis because of its extended range, intense consumption, and fast recharge time,” stated Clean Hydrogen Partnership CEO Bart Biebuyck.
Other hydrogen taxi fleets have begun operations around Europe.
Lionel Boillot, project manager of the Clean Hydrogen Partnership, cites Green Tomato Cars, which operates a fleet of 50 cars in London, and Drivr, which operates a fleet of 100 hydrogen taxis in Copenhagen.
According to him, the implementation of these initiatives is due to the “congruence between the installation of hydrogen infrastructure and the cars.”
Lagging behind on production
Nevertheless, a potential surge in hydrogen taxi projects and fleets might be impeded by a number of roadblocks, including bureaucracy.
“The time necessary for negotiations, particularly for the infrastructure of hydrogen refuelling stations, can take up to two years in some cases. This varies widely from nation to country and causes significant delays in deployment,” explained Boillot.
The Clean Hydrogen Partnership has already developed a list of proposals to standardise operations in the hopes of curbing this barrier.
Another concern is the scarcity of automobiles since just a few automakers have entered the hydrogen “passenger” car segment.
Hype, for instance, is now dependent on Toyota and its Mirai car. However, other automobile manufacturers, such as Hyundai, Stellantis, and Renault, only produce a few hundred of these vehicles each year.
Large automobile makers should instead concentrate on electric vehicles, which are the most popular with the general population. Renault, Peugeot, Fiat, and Ford, for example, intend to go totally electric by 2030, while Volkswagen intends to switch its whole output to electric vehicles by 2035.
“The source is very limited,” says Philippe Boucly, head of the France Hydrogène organisation. Stellantis, for example, only produces 1,000 to 2,000 hydrogen cars every year, according to him.
Another barrier, according to Boucly, is the extremely expensive purchasing price of such cars, which makes them difficult to market.
“There is a minimum critical mass that manufacturers must have in order to drive down prices, and it is this rise in energy that we are now battling with,” he remarked.
10,000 hydrogen taxis by 2024
Despite these challenges, Hype intends to have 10,000 cars in the Ile-de-France area by 2024.
In addition, the business intends to build a hydrogen distribution network of at least 20 one-ton/day stations and six lesser utilisation stations that will be powered by locally produced green hydrogen. The transmitters will be available for commercial and logistical purposes.
Gardies is betting significantly on the “Olympic Games” influence in Paris, hence the year 2024 was not picked at random. “Sports events are the only events that we are able to connect politicians and businesspeople behind,” he remarked.
With 40,000 vehicles utilised as taxis and over 100 one-ton/day stations, the CEO intends to develop in roughly fifteen cities in France and internationally by 2025, boosted by the event’s exposure. The company’s EU development strategy also includes Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
However, Hype is not the only participant in the market for light hydrogen vehicles.
In the period from 2021 to 2027, the EU will provide €1 billion to the Clean Hydrogen Partnership in order to speed the development of clean hydrogen applications such as taxis.
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