Here’s the first hydrogen cargo bike, we explain why it’s useless

A fleet of hydrogen-powered electric scooters has been made available to food chains in Issy-les-Moulineaux. But this energy, as pointed out by the IPCC, is not a viable solution and a relevant alternative to lithium batteries for light vehicles. We explain why.

Source: Issy Media via Le Parisien

In late October, the town of Issy-les-Moulineaux (Hauts-de-Seine) caught the media spotlight. Several food brands in the city have indeed used a fleet of hydrogen-powered electric scooters to deliver to their customers.

The four cargo bikes made available to them were built by Pragma Mobility, a subsidiary of Pragma Industries. However, and as several NGOs and other official bodies have pointed out, hydrogen – often touted as the solution of the future for our electric vehicles – is clearly not the silver bullet.

First of all, it is necessary to recall some fundamental principles concerning hydrogen. This gas only makes sense if it’s produced properly: it’s called green hydrogen or carbon-free hydrogen. However, its so-called clean production (resulting from the electrolysis of water) must come from a low carbon energy, such as renewable energy or nuclear energy.

The fact is that today this energy is essential and above all used for other daily uses throughout the territory. In 2020 in France, green hydrogen represented only a very small part of the hydrogen produced here: up to 5%. For the rest, the name of blue, gray or young hydrogen is used.

Green energy in the program

Will Pragma Mobility cargo bikes be powered by such clean energy? In the future and in the idea, yes. The group will use the company Hype – which specializes in hydrogen taxis –, which will provide a charging station in early 2023.

On its website, Hype explains that it wants to “ accelerate the deployment of its network, which will include 7 operational hydrogen stations in late 2022 – early 2023, along with a corresponding capacity for local production of green hydrogen from 2023 “. This is therefore green hydrogen that will benefit your electric scooters.

Hype’s hydrogen taxis

To do this, Hype will call on McPhy to build a ” new 800 kg/day station and an electrolyser with a capacity of 2 MW, allowing to combine the corresponding local production of green hydrogen from 2023“.

However, the famous “clean season»expected in early 2023 is not relevant for the launch of the famous tricycles. Meanwhile, the latter will feed on a“temporary station in the technical center, which an operator will operate“, we read inthe parisianwithout further details on how hydrogen is produced — contact Pragma Mobility for more details.

Is hydrogen relevant to e-bikes?

Aside from these minor timing issues, does hydrogen as such and as clean as possible make sense for an e-bike? Not really. First of all, the American NGO EDF (Environmental Defense Fund for Environmental Defense Fund) pointed out in a recent study the danger of hydrogen in the event of a leak.

This type of leakage can occur during transport, filling of tanks and their use, and would be extremely harmful to the planet, according to EDF. In addition, the IPCC recommends in a recent study reserving lithium batteries for light vehicles and exploring the hydrogen path for heavy vehicles.

A bicycle clearly falls into the first category. The IPCC considers that green hydrogen should therefore be used in the maritime, air and rail sectors (boats, planes and trains), as its production is very energy intensive in its production phase.

Also, and as we explained in a recent article, the energy efficiency of an electric car is around 60-80% compared to 10-30% for hydrogen, due to the very energy intensive nature of the electrolysis technique. On an identical trip, a vehicle with a lithium battery consumes considerably less electricity.

less efficient energy

It is true that the subject is not about electric cars, but about electric bicycles. However, this finding is equally valid for battery-powered bikes compared to a hydrogen-powered bike. The differences are certainly proportionate, but the purpose remains the same.

The question is, why make a bicycle on hydrogen, even if the hydrogen produced is green? In a press kit available on its website, Pragma Mobility considers that batteries used in light vehicles (electric bicycles, electric scooters) are very difficult to recycle, due to their large number and small size.

However, the recycling of lithium batteries is already a reality in the field of electric cars. In its 2021 impact report, Tesla claimed to be able to recycle up to 92% of the materials used in a battery. And we’re talking several hundred thousand cars a year here.

For its part, Volkswagen announced the launch of a large-scale project that allows the almost infinite recycling of materials present in lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles. One wonders why the battery-powered e-bike industry could not benefit so much. But above all, the French company also incorporates a lithium-ion battery in its bikes… much smaller in size than in a VAE, it’s true.


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