Breton startup EHM wants to convert trucks into green hydrogen

For several weeks, Didier Arénal, CEO of EHM (Efficient Hydrogen Motors), increased the presence of the company specializing in hydrogen at fairs such as HyVolution, held in May in Paris.

The Brest startup, founded at the beginning of the year, has a series of meetings with investors, green hydrogen suppliers and potential customers, in particular transport groups, with the aim of promoting its innovation aimed at heavy mobility.

Following a retrofit model (the fact of replacing the internal combustion engine, gasoline or diesel with an electric motor powered by battery or hydrogen) of a new type. In concrete terms, it is developing a hydrogen engine to replace combustion engines in vehicles (trucks, buses, boats) over five years old.

The project makes sense in a region that heavily uses heavy transport to transport its agricultural and agri-food products. But also in the midst of a sharp rise in prices with inflation that hit a record in France 37 years ago, +5.2% in May, in particular due to rising fuel prices.

The Regional Council is also an active supporter of the EHM, which is finalizing a fundraiser of up to one million euros.

The company has already advanced a lot in industrial partnerships, with solution providers and mechanics for installing engines, as well as in collecting value. He still has a final third to find from private investors.

20,000 m2 factory in Chateaulin

This engine does not emit CO2, only water vapor, it complies with the Euro 7 standard that will come into force in 2025 and its efficiency is higher than that of a heat engine “says Didier Arénal, leader of EHM and former director of the mechanical company ST Industries in Guipavas.

The EHM also replaces tanks and accessories to convert them to hydrogen. To fuel our engines, we are about to sign agreements with green hydrogen distribution networks that will support our development. Distribution is essential for our model because there is not yet a network of hydrogen pumps “.

Mobilizing a team of twenty people (doctors, researchers, engineers), the start-up was created within the Enstartups incubator in Brest in collaboration with the Estaca school of engineering and the University of South Brittany (UBS) for R&D.

EHM plans another 18 months of R&D, with vehicle testing in 2023, before engine certification in 2024 and commercialization in 2025.

This deadline will coincide with the construction of a 20,000 m2 production plant in Chateaulin, which aims to create 150 to 200 jobs in the operational phase.

During the intermediate phase, the ramp-up will be carried out with an industrialist from Finistère.

Long distance and circular economy

While fleets of trucks and buses are EHM’s priority market, its solution is also attracting interest from the nautical and aeronautical sectors.

Converting the engines of a fleet of vehicles represents an investment for a carrier, but compared to an electrically powered fleet, the cost is two to three times cheaper. And given the cost of diesel, massive hydrogen is about the same price. insists Didier Arenal.

Within the scope of the foreseen end of diesel or gasoline engines, the leader also points out that electric vehicles will have their share, but do not allow driving over long distances.

Hydrogen has the advantage of offering a range between 400 and 800 kilometers evaluates the 56-year-old manager, whose objective is to install an industrial model before retirement.

Our project contributes to the circular economy, without waste. Its local manufacture, extended vehicle life and no CO2 emissions also address environmental challenges. »

A Breton ecosystem moving forward together

While major regions are mobilizing and competing around green hydrogen, Brittany is also playing its card.

Its sector has more than twenty-five ongoing projects, namely in Vannes (Chantier naval Bretagne Sud), Redon (H2XEcosystems) or Quimper (Entech) and develops various technical solutions for land and sea uses.

If one of the great regional ambitions concerns the construction of ships with hydrogen technology, this industrial sector is also developing within the local hydrogen circuits.

In sector H2, there is no dominant solution. The ecosystem moves together to achieve global solutions » welcomes Didier Arénal.

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