There is a lot of talk lately about electric cars. At the same time, hydrogen technology continues to advance. Complementary to electricity, it is already used for heavy mobility (bus, freight vehicles, train, etc.).
By 2040, it will no longer be possible to market vehicles using fossil fuels in France. The automotive revolution passes through electric power, which now equips many car models recently launched on the market. However, this solution is not suitable for all uses: to complement the presence of electricity in mobility, another technology should also gain momentum in the years to come. Indeed, the hydrogen engine could soon replace the good old diesel in our trucks.
Hydrogen: what is it?
Gas very little present in the natural state,hydrogen is today mainly used as a raw material by industry, mainly in chemical processes and produced from hydrocarbons, often methane. The process emits a lot of CO₂: to produce 1 kg of hydrogen, 10 kg of CO₂ are emitted. However, there are several means of production with low CO₂ emissions: electrolysis of water provided that the electricity used in the process is itself carbon-free. This is the case for 97% of the electricity produced in France by EDF. Second technique: the reforming of hydrocarbons associated with Carbon Capture and Storage, and third process: the cracking of methane at high temperature (pyrolysis) keeping the carbon in solid form therefore without impact on the greenhouse effect.
Hydrogen, an ecological and profitable fuel?
In mobility, hydrogen as a fuel is certainly more expensive to produce but more compatible with the environment than fuels made from fossils. By producing hydrogen using a fuel cell, the overall efficiency is quite low, around 20-25%, while that of a battery-powered electric car goes up to 75%, which means three times less fuel. electricity for the same service rendered final.
Here is a (rare) hydrogen car, the Mirai marketed by Toyota
On the other hand, its speed of recharging and its on-board autonomy, comparable to that of a thermal vehicle, make it a good candidate in certain segments of heavy mobility for which the solution on electric batteries would present limits in terms of autonomy and capacity to recharge: buses, coaches, trains running on non-electrified lines, international heavy goods vehicles, sea and air for medium distances, even certain segments of light mobility such as taxis.
This is why the projects of hydrogen trucks are currently increasing in the world, and that some countries already use vehicles of this kind in their public transport (or garbage trucks). Some electric truck projects also exist, but the size of the batteries required for their journeys poses problems of weight and space.
A sector that is being structured in France
Hydrogen (H2) is currently the subject of very strong attention, as a possible solution to decarbonise in depth the uses of energy that it would be difficult to electrify, thus allowing the achievement of the carbon neutrality. Many countries have thus just endorsed a very ambitious development strategy: the French strategy promises € 7 billion by 2030 for its development. The German plan speaks of € 9 billion by 2030. The European strategy proposes to rely on a massive development of 2×40 GW of electrolysers over the same time horizon.
At the heart of these new ambitions, actors take place. For EDF, it is Hynamics, a subsidiary specializing in production and distribution of low carbon and renewable hydrogen. To produce hydrogen, Hynamics has chosen the electrolysis of water: a process that is good for the planet insofar as the electricity produced in France is largely carbon-free.