The development of hydrogen vehicles will go through trucks: this is the bet of many manufacturers including Hyundai, which delivers its first hydrogen trucks on Wednesday.
The Korean brand has leased to Swiss carriers seven "XCient Fuel Cell", 36 tons capable of traveling 400 kilometers at full load, with a tank of 32 kilos.
The hydrogen is transformed there via a battery, powering an electric motor which only releases water vapor.
While the hydrogen passenger car market remains in its infancy, due to the lack of gas production and distribution infrastructure, trucks could open the road.
"The demand for trucks is much stronger: it will help build infrastructure," said Mark Freymüller, head of Hyundai's operation in Switzerland, during the presentation of the truck to the press.
- "The next revolution" -
For Michelin boss Florent Menegaux, "this is the next great revolution in transport".
The French tire giant has bet on it by launching Symbio, a fuel cell joint venture with the equipment manufacturer Faurecia.
The fuel cell, which offers high motive power and quiet operation, holds promise for heavy goods vehicles: drivers generally have routes planned in advance, making it easier to set up stations in front of their warehouse or on their route.
The impatience of investors has allowed the American startup Nikola, which promises to launch a hydrogen truck, to chain records on the stock market even before presenting a truck that really drives ...
The resounding resignation of its president and founder Trevor Milton, accused both of having deceived his world, and of having committed sexual assault, has since cast a shadow over Nikola's grand ambitions.
Associated with the giants GM, Iveco and Bosch, the startup plans to launch electric utilities before testing its first hydrogen heavy trucks in 2022.
Hyundai, which refused to partner with Nikola, explains for its part that its engineers have been perfecting their hydrogen engines for twenty years, and plans to invest more than $ 6 billion in them by 2025.
The brand chose Switzerland to launch its trucks because diesel is expensive there and the country's geography is suitable for truck use.
Hyundai plans to produce 2,000 Xcient per year from 2021, and expand in Germany from 2021, then in Austria, the Netherlands and Norway.
The Xcient promises a range of 1000 kilometers by 2030, with a passage at the pump of about fifteen minutes.
Hyundai is also targeting the United States and China, which intends to put one million equipped vehicles on its roads by 2030.
-Toyota and Daimler in ambush-
Another pioneer brand, Toyota, is developing a hydrogen heavy truck for the North American market and another for the Japanese market.
Daimler and Volvo have also joined forces in the field.
On Tuesday, the French equipment manufacturer Faurecia inaugurated for its part a "world center of expertise" in France, near which will be produced from 2023 tanks for the Hyundai Xcient.
They must be extremely resistant, with this odorless and very flammable gas.
The Dutch manufacturer VDL is also developing a hydrogen model with tanks from the supplier Plastic Omnium, as part of a consortium subsidized by the European Union, "H2HAUL".
"We expect logistics companies to take an interest in this area," underlines Xavier Chollet, manager of the Pictet Clean Energy fund, especially if it becomes cheaper to fill up with hydrogen than with diesel.
He does not foresee a "massive conquest of the market before at least 2030", "but technological innovations could surprise us".
A major problem remains: the production of hydrogen today emits a great deal of CO2, because it results mainly from the reforming of methane.
The European Union has made clean hydrogen, obtained from the electrolysis of water, one of its priorities in the race towards climate neutrality in 2050.
Germany will devote 9 billion euros to it, with the ambition of becoming the world No. 1, and France 7 billion euros, in particular for road transport.
© 2020 AFP