23 Jan 24

Hydrogen Mobility: The Next Leap in Europe's Sustainable Transport Revolution

In the dynamic and ever-evolving world of sustainable transport, hydrogen mobility is emerging as a promising contender, poised to redefine the ecosystem of eco-friendly transportation. Amidst the gradual shift towards electrification, hydrogen's entry into the scene brings a new dimension to the dialogue around green mobility, particularly for fleet operations.

Despite the current rarity of hydrogen-fueled vehicles and refuelling stations, significant changes are on the horizon, potentially spearheaded by Renault's latest sustainability venture, emphasising value over volume. This initiative, known as “Renaulution,” was introduced in 2021 as part of the French automaker's ambitious transformation strategy. That same year, Renault demonstrated its commitment to this vision by supporting Hyvia, a European hydrogen mobility ecosystem.

Incorporating hydrogen solution expertise

Hyvia's creation is a testament to Renault's foresight in embracing a sustainable future. The company has joined forces with Plug, an American firm with over two decades of hydrogen solution expertise. This cross-continental partnership is at the heart of Hyvia's mission to revolutionise zero-carbon mobility for light commercial vehicles (LCVs).

David Holderbach, the CEO of Hyvia, brings over a quarter-century of automotive experience and a dedication to achieving net zero emissions. Holderbach outlines Hyvia's holistic approach, encompassing everything from fuel cell installation to on-site refuelling, maintenance, and even hydrogen production through electrolysis. Hyvia stands out as a turnkey solution, offering vehicles, financing, hydrogen fuel supply, and after-sales services.

Hydrogen’s application for high-use vehicles

Holderbach emphasises the tailored approach to each client, beginning with a thorough audit to determine the suitability of vehicles for hydrogen use, particularly for high-use vehicles that are constantly on the road. Hyvia's strategy includes assessing proximity to hydrogen supplies and offering temporary or permanent refuelling solutions, including onsite electrolyser systems for hydrogen production.

Europe's hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, though currently limited compared to traditional fuel stations, is steadily growing. With an estimated 230 to 250 hydrogen refuelling stations and an annual expansion rate of 40 to 50 new facilities, hydrogen mobility is carving out its niche in the sustainable transport landscape.

Transforming the Renault Master

Practically, Hyvia has chosen the Renault Master as its vehicle platform. Fuel cells manufactured in Flins, France, are integrated into these vehicles and transformed into hydrogen vehicles with precise guidelines. Pilot programs across Europe are underway, with training conducted for the Renault LCV network, Renault Pro+.

Significant clients, including major companies in France, the Netherlands, and Germany, have begun their journey with Hyvia, showcasing the growing appeal of hydrogen mobility. Holderbach underscores that while hydrogen vehicles may not suit all scenarios, they offer substantial CO2 savings during their lifecycle compared to diesel vehicles. They are particularly advantageous for intensive-use vehicles that cannot afford long recharging breaks, such as delivery vehicles in urban settings.

As European cities increasingly restrict diesel vehicles and companies face legal mandates to reduce their carbon footprint, hydrogen emerges as a viable alternative for specific use cases. Hydrogen offers the advantage of quick refuelling for vehicles in continuous operation, making it an increasingly attractive option in the sustainable mobility landscape.

While hydrogen mobility is still nascent in Europe's sustainable transport ecosystem, its potential to complement electric solutions and cater to specific transportation needs positions it as an essential player in the quest for a greener, more efficient future in mobility.

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Image: courtesy of Hyvia

Authored by: Alison Pittaway