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Hydrogen Technology

More than a mobility myth – the facts about hydrogen

MICHELIN Hydrogen Myths vs Facts

Hydrogen as an energy carrier and hydrogen fuel cell systems are considered key technologies for the electromobility of the future. Battery-electric vehicles are currently the focus of attention among the alternative drive fraternity – but electromobility is already reaching its limits in some areas. Hydrogen mobility, on the other hand, offers complementary solutions that can solve range problems and meet the challenges of sustainable energy generation. Hydrogen drives are still often seen as an opportunity of the distant future. The facts, however, speak for themselves. Here, Michelin gives five reasons why hydrogen mobility is no longer a myth.



Myth 1: Hydrogen was always just a mobility dream and will remain so

The fact is: It is not without reason that the European Union has drawn up an ambitious hydrogen strategy: From 2024 to 2030, hydrogen must become a key part of an integrated solution to drive energy transition. The EU aims to produce up to 10 million tons of renewable hydrogen in the EU by 2030. 1In the mobility sector, the full potential of hydrogen will be exploited. Thus, the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance has specifically created a "mobility pillar", co-chaired by Florent Menagaux, CEO of the Michelin Group.
Michelin and Faurecia are also focusing on the potential for innovation with their Symbio joint venture in the production of fuel cell systems. The company aims to achieve a market share of 12 percent by 2030 and is already entering mass production to achieve this. On January 22, 2021, Symbio signed the lease for the site in Saint-Fons near Lyon where its main factory for fuel cell systems will be built. On the eight-hectare site, Symbio will build one of the largest high-tech hydrogen fuel cell production facilities in Europe, a research and development center, a training center and its future headquarters.


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Myth 2: Only battery electric vehicles have a future

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The fact is: Experts believe that the future will be determined by a mix of drive concepts – if only because the development of a charging infrastructure for electric vehicles suitable for mass use, and the power supply to that infrastructure, is hardly feasible on a nationwide basis. Battery-electric vehicles and fuel cell systems will thus complement each other and together pave the way for emission-free mobility. Hydrogen technology will thus advance above all in areas of application that require long distances and high energy requirements, such as freight and passenger transport. In these areas, hydrogen is ideally suited as an energy storage medium, which is extremely important for the mobility sector but also for other applications. So the technology is gaining ground in many vehicle segments – currently mainly in commercial vehicles for road transport, such as trucks, tour coaches and SUVs, and at a later stage in aircraft technology or shipping.
It is becoming apparent that the timeline for widespread adoption of hydrogen vehicles depends on two key factors: First, introduction at fueling stations is critical, which is why Michelin believes commercial vehicles and taxis will be the first segments available. As part of fleets, they always return to the same station and can therefore be efficiently deployed regionally. Secondly, technological progress and upscaling of production is crucial so that an acceptable price-performance ratio can be guaranteed. For this reason, Michelin and Symbio are aiming for a massive ramp-up of mass production: 200,000 units are to be manufactured annually by 2030.


Myth 3: Hydrogen technology will only become established for industrial applications.

The fact is: Over 90 percent of hydrogen is still used in industrial applications, such as steel production. In terms of mobility, the current global market is in a start-up phase, and the potential applications for trucks, buses and car fleets are developing at a rapid pace. This development will lead to the current 25,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles becoming millions. Market experts already see a sharp increase in demand. A joint study by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) already identified a market readiness for fuel cell buses and forecasts it for on-road vehicles with cargo capacity (for example vans and taxis) by 2025 – and for broad truck use by 2030. In addition, the study predicts that up to 40 percent of all new heavy-duty trucks sold will be hydrogen-powered by 2050. 233 million hydrogen vehicles are estimated to be on the market in 2050 in Europe alone.


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Myth 4: A tyre manufacturer like Michelin cannot be an expert in fuel cell systems

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The fact is that Michelin has long stood for more than the manufacture of sustainable tyre technologies and is strongly committed to technologies for the future of mobility. For example, Michelin has more than 15 years’ experience with fuel cell technology – from development to application in boats and buses. With its know-how in industrialisation, an R&D budget of around 680 million euros per year, and its global infrastructure, Michelin has the necessary prerequisites to become the market leader in fuel cell technology.
With the creation of the Symbio joint venture in 2019, Michelin and Faurecia have invested €140 million to accelerate fuel cell development and advance mass production. Symbio aims to achieve sales of around €1.5 billion by 2030. The joint venture will have three industrial sites from which it will supply the world's major automotive markets. Symbio is already producing fuel cell systems and scaling them rapidly: "Symbio's StackPack® System" is already fitted as standard in a Renault hydrogen vehicle (Kangoo Hydrogen). In addition, the PSA Group has placed an order with Symbio to equip the first 100 vehicles in its hydrogen vehicle fleet. The market launch is planned for 2021.


Myth 5: With hydrogen, mobility loses its sportiness

The fact is that hydrogen mobility is not only sustainable, but also holds potential for top sporting performance. In 2024, for example, the "MissionH24" wants to bring 100 percent hydrogen-powered racing car prototypes to the starting line at Le Mans. Michelin is not only the official tyre partner but also, together with Symbio, the technology supplier of "Green GT" – the high-tech group dedicated to the research, development and implementation of high-performance electric-hydrogen drive systems for the new motorsport class. As a partner in this large-scale project, Michelin and its partners are proving that hydrogen technology can deliver top performance under the toughest conditions of an endurance race like the "24 Hours of Le Mans".

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