2020 Marks the Start of the Decade of Hydrogen
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2020 Marks the Start of the Decade of Hydrogen

By Patrick Koller, Chief Executive Officer, Faurecia [Euronext: EO]

Patrick Koller, Chief Executive Officer, Faurecia [Euronext: EO]

Although fighting the current coronavirus pandemic is occupying all of our time and energy at the moment, and our first priority is to keep our families, teams, and communities safe and healthy, we should not forget the longer-term challenges that will once again face our planet when industry restarts.

The growing impact of climate change, harsher penalties for greenhouse gas emissions, and a greater awareness of our carbon footprint are all driving efforts for more sustainable sources of energy. Because of the abundance of hydrogen and its existing use in energy generation, industry, and transport, the Hydrogen Council estimates that by 2050, 18 per cent of the world’s energy will be produced using hydrogen. Increasing the use of hydrogen will allow us to reduce around 7 gigatons of CO2 emissions globally and create up to 30 million new jobs. Along with renewable sources like wind and solar energy, hydrogen will play a crucial role in society’s transition from fossil fuels.

Expanding the use of hydrogen in mobility will be key to reaching these objectives. By 2030 it is estimated that at least two million new vehicles and over 350,000 trucks will  be equipped with fuelcell technology. We are convinced that fuel cell and battery electric vehicles will coexist for different applications, with fuel cells being particularly appropriate for light commercial vehicles and commercial vehicles due to their superior total cost of ownership performance, extended range, and shorter re-fuelling time. According to our estimates, over 30 per cent of heavy-duty vehicles and 20 per cent of city buses will run on hydrogen in 2030.

"Our response to this crisis has shown that we can take bold action on pressing issues; we should bring the same resolve and fervour to our efforts to advance sustainability and revolutionise mobility"

To meet these expectations, we need to accelerate industrialization. To achieve this, Faurecia and Michelin have started construction for Symbio’s first site in Eastern France (Saint Fons in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region). Our joint venture will produce fuel cell systems in the largest dedicated industrial facility in Europe. We are looking forward to accelerating the industrial production of fuel cell systems, bringing to life our investment in innovation, and becoming a world leader in hydrogen mobility. Our growing R&D expenditure earmarked for clean mobility, our joint venture with Michelin, the acquisition of Ullit with its patented technology for impermeable tank shells, and our partnership with the CEA, France’s atomic and alternative energy agency, have all reinforced our unique hydrogen ecosystem. At our centre of excellence in Bavans, engineers are developing lightweight and more efficient high-pressure hydrogen storage systems. We will soon begin supplying hydrogen storage systems for 1,600 Hyundai trucks over a four-year period and have seen interest from other global OEMs too. 

While private investment is advancing fuel cell systems, public investment in expanding industrial production and developing infrastructure is essential to fostering consumer confidence and the mass adoption of hydrogen mobility. As the home of so many automotive, natural gas, and energy distribution companies with global footprints all invested in the hydrogen transformation, France is well-positioned to become a world leader in hydrogen mobility. While there has been significant government support for the use of hydrogen in industrial settings and the production of de-carbonized energy, public investment in fuel cell mobility has only recently started. This has delayed the deployment of the infrastructure necessary to accelerate the availability of fuel cell electric vehicles on the market and large-scale adoption by consumers. 

Environmental challenges pose a threat not just to the automotive sector but to society and humanity at large, and there is a greater awareness of our impact and willingness to alter our lifestyles in response. We hope that in the next decade, the widespread use of hydrogen, from fuel cells to energy generation and carbon capture, will result in a significant reduction in global CO2 emissions. Greater cooperation between the public and private sectors will be invaluable in developing and producing the hydrogen-based infrastructure necessary for the energy transition. Now is the time for the French government to capitalise on this momentum, support the scaling up of fuel cell systems, and join the ranks of the global leaders in hydrogen mobility.

Although we are facing the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our business will be felt for some time, I am confident that once we have resumed our regular rate of activity, all parties invested in the hydrogen transition will continue building on our successes and expand the use of fuel cell systems. Our response to this crisis has shown that we can take bold action on pressing issues;we should bring the same resolve and fervour to our efforts to advance sustainability and revolutionise mobility. 

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