First, let’s remember a few principles. A hydrogen car is actually an electric car that runs on hydrogen and is converted into electricity by a fuel cell. The gas is stored under high pressure in several tanks installed on the vehicle platform.
Hydrogen (H2) reacts with oxygen (O2) ambient air to power the fuel cell: an electrochemical reaction takes place inside it and generates electricity and water vapor (H).2O), was thrown under the vehicle.
Electric energy is stored in the batteries of the car, which behaves like a 100% electric car.
How to get hydrogen?
There are two streams today. Gray hydrogen (widely used in industry) is produced by carbon action and steam reforming of gas with steam of known fossil origin. We are talking about the separation of hydrogen atoms from carbon atoms with significant thermal effects.
Another possibility is green hydrogen. It is produced from electricity and water generated by wind turbines or solar panels. The latter should be preferred.
There are few vehicles in circulation
In terms of passenger cars, only two brands offer a model each: Toyota with the Mirai and Hyundai with the Nexo, both capable of 650 km.
Projects are available, notably the 4×4 Grenadier at Land Rover, Hopium, NamX and Ineos. We can also mention BMW and Mercedes, which prefer the motor home.
The whole challenge is to fit the fuel cell, batteries and hydrogen tanks into a small space. Another problem: a network of supply stations that have not yet been built.
Development in public service
Fuel cell manufacturers also object to the cells’ relatively low power. The two manufacturers then teamed up with manufacturers to develop and market practical solutions.
Renault, formerly associated with Symbio, has chosen America’s PlugPower and is producing homologated kits for the Master heavy-duty van at the new Hyvia factory in Flins (Yvelines). All three tanks are mounted on top of the hull for ease of manufacture.
Stellantis chose light vans to install the fuel cell and tanks on the Expert, Jumpy and Vivaro platform; Battery provided by… Symbio.
Hydrogen technology also applies to buses and especially trucks. Cars with no shortage of hydrogen storage space, allowing to achieve a range of 1000 km or more.
American Nikola receives many orders for the Tre truck, developed in partnership with Iveco. Mercedes is also working on heavy trucks like buses and even Toyota for Hyundai.
But building is not enough. It is also necessary to refuel, and this according to a certain flow: the choice is then made in favor of refueling at 700 bar.
Biggest obstacle: price
If the first station dates back to 2015, there will be a total of 30 stations operating in France in 2022, including 6 in the Paris region, 10 in Normandy and 6 between Lyon, Grenoble and Valence.
Several hundred stations should be reached by 2030, as the European Transport Commissioner aims for one station every 150 km.
According to the National Hydrogen Council (CNH), the cost of producing green hydrogen is between €5 and €10 per kg, depending on the size of the production units, which gives the pump between €10 and €15 per kg.
CNH estimates that it is possible to halve the price by 2030. At this price, it can be competitive.