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France turns to hydrogen production to fight climate change

December 2, 2021
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: France plans to pioneer alternative methods to replace fossil fuels and become as energy independent as possible.

France is focusing on hydrogen as a way to curb climate change. Following the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, the French government decided to pioneer the development of hydrogen in order to meet its quota for reducing fossil fuel emissions. This decision will complement France’s development of electric vehicles, currently underway.

President Emmanuel Macron announced in November that France will devote nearly  €2 billion ($2.2 billion USD) to developing the hydrogen sector, as part of the continuing effort to create alternative non-fossil fuels. Macron said production of hydrogen will be the next major target for industry as a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Up to now, Paris-based Air Liquide, a global leader in industrial gas production, has produced hydrogen primarily by using natural gas. But now, “green” hydrogen is being produced with the electrolysis of water. The goal is to produce green hydrogen that is competitive with fossil fuels by 2030, especially for use in vehicles.

The French market is estimated at nearly one metric ton compared to today’s global industrial hydrogen market of 60 metric tons. Although hydrogen is still a small market and is expensive to produce, the demand for hydrogen is expected to come from use as fuel in cleaner vehicles. In order to avoid high transportation costs, large volumes of the vehicles could be manufactured at lower costs by building massive factory production plants.

Hopium, a startup in the French city of Béziers, has unveiled its prototype hydrogen car, the Māchina. Led by race car driver Olivier Lombard, Hopium intends to manufacture a luxury sedan in France priced at around €120,000 ($133,490 USD) that runs only on hydrogen. With a launch date in 2026, the Māchina promises more than 500 horsepower and a range of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) on a full tank. That’s farther than a fully charged electric car can travel, and driving performance will be comparable to that of a fossil-fuel car, Hopium said.

According to a report published by McKinsey & Co. and the global Hydrogen Council, hydrogen will transform the transportation sector by 2050—in particular, for trucks, medium and large sedans, and trains. The automotive sector will not be the only industry affected; heating and energy production are also expected to see their use of hydrogen rise rapidly over the coming decades.

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