Marginal! With only two models currently marketed in France, the offer in terms of hydrogen cars is more than confidential. Hyundai Nexo (about €80,400) and Toyota Mirai (€69,400), the only two models present in France, have a power of about 170 hp and a range of over 650 km. These values are equivalent to those of a conventional electric car with a lithium-ion battery. From the point of view of autonomy, the two types of motorization are the same. But with a pump price of between 10 and 15 euros per kilo, in use the cost of hydrogen is closer to a thermal vehicle than an electric one. With this significant advantage it only takes a few minutes to fill your tank. As long as you find a station. And this is one of the main current pitfalls. With only about thirty hydrogen service stations open to the public, almost half of them on the Paris-Deauville axis alone, crossing France on this type of fuel is next to impossible for the average driver. This does not prevent projects from multiplying on the side of car manufacturers with the advent of new players such as Hopium or NamX in France, but also with historic manufacturers such as BMW and its future iX5 hydrogen, Kia, Volkswagen or Renault. , which, through its subsidiary Hyvia, markets its first line of Master-based fuel cell utility vehicles. Without this suggesting anything in terms of private vehicles.
+ 84% increase
Although still in its infancy, the hydrogen sector is experiencing strong growth of +84% in one year. Starting from scratch, perf might seem easy. But if we look at the glass as half full, the signs are encouraging. Especially since the recovery plan announced by the French government foresees 7.2 billion euros of investment in this energy until 2030, aims to provide the country with a network of hydrogen filling stations in sufficient quantity to facilitate, democratize and cover the needs of vehicles. of fuel cell. But more broadly, if hydrogen is on everyone’s mind today, it is because it is the direct solution to decarbonizing industry and mobility, while being a source of re-industrialization and job creation in France. In short, an energy at the heart of the energy transition.
How to do this?
Hydrogen is the simplest chemical compound there is. But unlike gas or oil, it is not found in nature in its raw state, it must be manufactured. And for that there are two different processes. A first way of obtaining hydrogen comes from the transformation of natural gas (methane steam reforming process) or another fossil fuel. The downside is that production here is carbon-based. A second process makes it possible to transform water by electrolysis. This requires electrical energy. Hydrogen produced in this way can only be “green” if the electricity used is from renewable production. Currently, 5% of the hydrogen produced in the world is produced by electrolysis and 95% by chemical transformation of fossil fuels, mainly natural gas.
The hydrogen plan for the energy transition
“The energy transition law for green growth has set the goals of achieving a rate of 32% renewable energy in final energy consumption by 2030 and 40% renewable energy in electricity production. The law also sets the goal of reducing fossil fuel consumption by 30% by 2030 and decarbonizing 10% of gas. Hydrogen is an interesting lever to achieve these goals, but above all an essential lever for pursuing the energy transition to carbon neutrality by 2050.”
The whole challenge to meeting the 2050 carbon plan is therefore to produce “green” hydrogen that does not generate greenhouse gases (GHG). And for now, that’s where the shoe pinches. First, the production costs of green hydrogen are three times higher than those of black or gray hydrogen obtained from fossil fuels. Secondly, the infrastructures and means to obtain this green hydrogen require numerous public and private investments. “To decarbonize a small-scale refinery with an electrolyser, around 500 megawatts of electrical energy are needed and today around 1 billion euros in investment”, details in an interview with Les Échos on October 27, 2021 François Kalaydjian de l IFP Nouvelle Energies. The state must therefore offset the additional cost if the green hydrogen sector is to really take off. In the face of real needs, the 7.2 billion euros seems like a drop of water according to the forecasts of the World Energy Council (October 2021) which estimates the demand for hydrogen multiplied by 6 in Europe by 2050, or about 60 million tons, half will have to be imported. “These carbon-free hydrogen imports will require colossal investments in production and transport infrastructure, analyzes the World Energy Council. » About 900 billion dollars by 2050.
Large electricity needs
At Reporterre’s request, a team of researchers from the Office of Political Ecology calculated the amount of electricity needed to operate the trucks alone using hydrogen produced by electrolysis from non-fossil electricity. Result: to supply 100,000 trucks over sixteen tons traveling on average 160,000 km/year, it would take 92.4 TWh/year (terawatt-hour per year), or fifteen nuclear reactors or 910 km² of solar panels. And if we wanted to run all three million trucks on hydrogen, we would need the equivalent of 156 nuclear reactors or nearly 10,000 km² of solar panels. A huge demand for space and resources. Therefore, it is easier to understand why France fought for a long time at European level for nuclear electricity to be recognized as “green”. Against the background of the emergence of small nuclear reactors (SMR). Easier to install, it would only take four to five years to build them, EDF estimates. As for the cost of producing electricity, it would be almost half compared to current power plants. For the construction of new atomic power plants, projects must have obtained the construction permit before 2045. Works to extend the life of existing plants must have been authorized before 2040. If hydrogen is at the heart of the European strategy to decarbonize In our industry, nuclear energy is clearly at the heart of the French model. And if an entire innovative ecosystem is being built around start-ups, SMEs, large groups working on all the technological bricks of the hydrogen value chain, there is still a long way to go before the democratization of the industrial and consumer supply of “green” hydrogen.