Traditional manufacturers are increasingly looking for hydrogen, while newcomers, including the French company Hopium, dream of being the leader in this new fuel.
The big 4X4 will also get into it. British manufacturer Ineos has just announced that Grenadier, its first model, originally equipped with large internal combustion engines from BMW, will be available by the end of the year in a hydrogen prototype. Enough to secure the future for a very young brand, as Europe plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2035.
While battery-powered electricity is becoming more widespread, more and more brands are looking for hydrogen, which is also much more virtuous when it comes to CO2 (see box below). This solution is designed especially for large vehicles, SUVs, 4x4s and especially municipal services for launching vehicles in the middle of the decade.
Confidential sales, Hyundai and Toyota as pioneers
The market is still confidential. In 2021, 15,500 units were sold worldwide, according to Jato Dynamic, with 55% of sales sold in South Korea. This is still better than in 2020, + 84%, but it represents a small portion of worldwide sales, less than 0.0001%. And if South Korea absorbs more than every second sale, it’s because hydrogen pioneers include the national brand Hyundai.
The Korean manufacturer launched the iX35 Fuel Cell model in 2013, which was followed by Nexowhose second generation was launched in 2018. Another pioneer in the market is Toyota, with Miraiwhich is also in its second generation, released last year. But even at lower prices – 11,000 euros less for the new Mirai generation – they remain high – 69,400 euros for the sedan. Not to mention the issue of stations, still too little. Therefore, purchases are almost exclusively made by professionals.
It is through this clientele that other producers, especially the French, intend to launch hydrogen. Stellantis launches a range of services. The Peugeot Expert Citroën Jumpy and Opel Vivaro are available in hydrogen versions with the start of small series production, with 2,000 units planned this year. On the Renault side The Hyvia subsidiary also launched deliveries of its firstRenault Masters, which will be manufactured in Batilla near Metz (Meurthe-et-Moselle), with three versions on offer: the “Vourgon” version and the “Bulk Chassis” version for goods transport and the “City Bus” version for passenger transport. The fuel cells will be integrated in Gretz-Armainvilliers (Seine-et-Marne). Enough to decarbonize fleets that swallow miles every day.
Autonomy and full lightness
Because it has the advantage of hydrogen: compared to electric offers real autonomy and fast refueling. With a fleet of hydrogen utilities, service station costs can be amortized by providing a fleet of own refueling vehicles.
Indeed, there are still few stations in France, a few dozen, but the situation needs to improve. The HysetCo specialist, for example, has just built the Porte de Saint-Cloud in Paris (16th century), production and distribution stations capable of delivering one tonne of hydrogen per day. Enough to supply taxis, heavy trucks and, ultimately, private cars with this fuel of the future. Refueling equivalent to about 5 kg for a light vehicle, a station such as Porte de Saint-Cloud can therefore provide about 200 refueling per day. It remains to be seen how the price of a kilo of hydrogen will fall, currently between 12 and 15 euros. And above all, to know produce “green” hydrogenor low CO2 emissions during production, for example due to wind turbines.
Renault or Stellantis are also working to add a fuel cell as a range extender for battery-powered vehicles. And they are not alone. Last month, the Renault Zoé covered 2,055.68 kilometers on a single charge. This Zoe was adapted by the research and development company Tarn ARM Engineering. He equipped the Renault city electric car with a fuel cell powered by agricultural methanol. This renewable fuel is called GH-3 and is produced by methanation of manure. Reformed on board the vehicle generates hydrogen, which itself generates electricity and thus supplies the battery. Five drivers drove a modified Renault Zoé for 3 days on a 3.5-kilometer race track in Albi between 7:00 and midnight. With a full 200 liters, the GH-3 was able to cover 2,055.68 kilometers, breaking the 1,360-kilometer record held by the Toyota Mirai in the United States.
New players like Hopium or NAMX
Proof that hydrogen is increasingly becoming the mobility solution of tomorrow, this technology is attracting new players such as Tesla and electric cars in 2000. Next to the French Hopium, which will only produce hydrogen cars, the brand new brand has just unveiled the “HUV”, the H20 SUV. NAMX plans to launch this first model in 2025 and is considering an original way of refueling, while waiting for the station network to expand.
But in the face of this problem, the new NAMX brand has just unveiled its first HUV, a hydrogen SUV. HUV is recharged using capsules. It is not necessary to stop at the station to fill with hydrogen. Just insert the capsule containing the fuel into the tank. So far, nothing has been specified about the capacity of these capsules, and therefore the autonomy, or the network that will allow them to be recharged. NAMX promises us more information at the Mondial de l’Automobile in Paris (October 17-23). A show where Hopium won’t be missing either.
Hydrogen car, how does it work?
How does a hydrogen car work? Almost like an electric car. With one exception, electricity is not stored in the battery, it is produced in the vehicle by a fuel cell. By combining hydrogen with the oxygen present in the air, the fuel cell will generate electricity… and clean water, which is removed by the exhaust gases. The interest is quick to understand: no need to recharge the car, just refuel hydrogen, an operation very similar to a full tank of conventional fuel.