Hydrogen, the new electric challenger – Fleet Management > Buyer families

The 2024 deadline haunts fleet managers. It will generalize to large cities (more than 150,000 inhabitants) low-emission mobility zones (ZFE-m), synonymous with the closure of thermal vehicles. For holders of long-term leases (LLD) with an average duration of three to four years, now the choice of models capable of entering the ZFE-m is made. In its recent “Fleet and Mobility Barometer 2022”, the Arval Mobility Observatory records the enthusiasm of companies for hybrid models (48%) or rechargeable hybrids (43%), but not yet for electric vehicles that total 27% road begins. “100% electric still suffers from difficulties linked to the availability of public charging (52%) or the high purchase price (29%)“, explains Régis Masera, president of the Arval Mobility Observatory.

Electric is progressing

However, the technology of these vehicles is advancing rapidly. with batteries that gain in autonomy and above all in consistency. Contrary to the manufacturers’ figures for combustion or hybrid engines, which are underestimated in relation to real conditions of use, the consumption presented by electric vehicles is quite credible. Case in point: Kia’s EV6 crossover keeps its promise of driving around 500km on the road without recharging. This model also offers equipment, trim and on-board seating that make it a serious alternative to a thermal company vehicle. With one caveat: your performance drops on the road. In these conditions, the battery guarantees a smooth ride between 300 and 400 km. It is true that the manufacturer advertises 18 minutes to recharge 80% of its capacity, as long as it locates a high-power terminal available in the right place on the route.

An opportunity for hydrogen

In this context, manufacturers play a new card: hydrogen. It is, more precisely, electric motor vehicles whose battery is recharged while driving thanks to a fuel cell (PAC) powered by a pressurized hydrogen tank. Compared to an equivalent electric vehicle like the EV6, hydrogen cars have an even higher price tag and, above all, a reduced choice. However, this technology is of interest to companies in a context of punitive taxation of CO emissionstwo and the restrictions of ZFE-m. As evidenced by the success of the exhibition dedicated to this edition, Hyvolution, which took place at the beginning of May in Paris, with 30% more visitors compared to the previous year. In addition, other manufacturers are preparing their arrival in this market, such as BMW, whose hydrogen-powered iX5 SUV is being tested. Despite the expansion of electricity supply, none really meet the needs of big riders for example. Hydrogen is timely to remedy this. “With Nexo, you are guaranteed to travel 400 km on the highway at 130 km/h, which no electric car is capable of.“, says Damien Rulière, press officer for Hyundai France.

The missing “brick”

Same observation in Toyota whose Miraï makes everyone happy. taxi companies that cannot afford the low autonomy. The new version, presented in February 2021, claims a 30% increase in range with 650 km without emissions. Thanks to the larger capacity tanks, the brand even had the luxury of reducing the battery capacity (for the benefit of weight gain and therefore consumption). A technical resource that should grab the attention of business decision makers before directing your choice to hydrogen. Unlike a plug-in hybrid, hydrogen car batteries are not intended to provide a minimum range in electric mode. It is necessary to have gasoline in the tanks to walk. In other words, before rushing to a dealership, the company must ensure that there is a station close to their location or destination. Even if the State encourages its development with the help of Ademe, investment in these infrastructures often exceeds one million euros, so they remain rare. In Paris, Hysecco is preparing to open a door in Saint-Cloud. An ideal location to complete a network hitherto confined to the periphery, in Roissy, Orly, Saint-Denis and Les Loges en Josas. “We deliver six tons of hydrogen per month“, says Loïc Voisin, president of Hysetco, whose stations can deliver four times as much when there are more customers. In the provinces, on the other hand, the network is more random: it all depends on the involvement of local communities for this energy. The Vendée department and the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region are among the most advanced.

The LCV Offensive

Consistency of performance, regardless of the cargo transported or the routes traveled, makes hydrogen a popular energy in the world of freight, passenger and logistics transport. this success now encourages car manufacturers to invest in the light utility market. For vans that are sometimes crowded, 100% electric motors struggle to provide the necessary range. As for recharging along the way, it takes a long time to not get in the way of a build day. “IElectric hydrogen technology allows intensive daily use without immobilization linked to recharging, a decisive advantage for professionals who, on the same day, have to travel several hundred kilometers on the motorway and then enter urban areas that are restrictive in terms of emissions. “, explains Linda Jackson, Managing Director of Peugeot, introducing the e-Expert Hydrogen. With a ton of payload, this vehicle promises 400 km of autonomy and full of hydrogen in three minutes. Other Stellantis brands also offer a hydrogen van: Citroën with the ë-Jumpy Hydrogen and Opel with the Vivaro e-Hydrogen. They are already running in test fleets, in France and Germany, at Miele, Suez or even Watea.

On the Renault side, the group is returning to the order of battle. Exit 2019 deal with Symbio to produce hydrogen Master and Kangoo ZE (this one disappears). The new boss, Lucas de Meo, hired the American Plug Power to create Hyvia, a joint venture that sets up hydrogen concessions in Flins. Initially, it is betting on three Masters: an H2 in van version (500 km of autonomy) and chassis-cab (250 km), in addition to a City Bus (300 km). Serious competitors against the Master ZE whose real range can drop below 100 km. “We also offer the installation of hydrogen charging stations to customers who order vehicles“, underlines David Holderbach, president of Hyvia. This turnkey offer is one of Hyvia’s strengths, as well as after-sales, which has Renault’s “Pro+” network. “We’re starting to label some sites to have hubs”, says Bertrand Morin, after-sales manager at Hyvia. An additional argument to reassure companies ready to take the plunge.

Cheapest hydrogen?

The prices of the concessionaires are not yet known, but they will certainly be higher than those of the thermal or even electric ones. At Stellantis, the gross price (excluding public aid) can be around €100,000. The technology is new and it takes time for the market to capture volumes. As for fuel, with a kilo of hydrogen between €10 and €15 and a liter of diesel close to €2, a full tank will be a little cheaper. But in the current geopolitical context, hydrogen can gain competitiveness while maintaining a logistical and ecological advantage, as it can be produced locally by electrolysis of water.

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