A sterile (and certainly not scientific) controversy over hydrogen at the Paris Olympics

controversy hydrogen Olympics Paris
A sterile (and certainly not scientific) controversy over hydrogen at the Paris Olympics

An entity called Hydrogen Science coalition has made headlines and sparked controversy by denouncing the presence of hydrogen-powered vehicles at the Paris Olympics. And by calling for them to be banned. The idea is absurd, but that hasn’t stopped some of the media from talking about it.

“The consequence of aggressively promoting hydrogen vehicles at the Olympics will inevitably delay the roll-out of BEVs, damaging the progress of the energy transition,” say around a hundred “scientists” in an open letter published on Tuesday. This appeal targets the Japanese manufacturer, whose 500 Mirai vehicles are due to join the official fleet of the event, before being converted into taxis at the end of the Games. A dozen buses will also be used to transport the athletes.

The “promotion of a hydrogen car is scientifically misaligned with net-zero and will damage the reputation of the 2024 Games,” warn the signatories of this open letter, sent to the International Olympic Committee.

So what does this coalition have to say? “Toyota has been promoting hydrogen for a long time, but they are only trying to delay the transition to electric vehicles”, said David Cebon, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Cambridge University (UK). “It’s a delaying strategy, a very cynical one from one of the most powerful companies in the world”. This is a bold statement from an academic who is not particularly qualified in the field of hydrogen and who seems to be unaware of Toyota’s strategy.

No reaction from the IOC or Toyota

Neither the IOC nor Toyota wished to react. And rightly so. It should be pointed out that the Japanese manufacturer, which is accused of being behind the curve when it comes to electric vehicles, will be deploying a total of 2,674 electrified vehicles (hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles) for its fleet at the Olympics. The Mirai only accounts for a fifth. Above all, Toyota will be deploying 1003 fully electric vehicles. In fact, the manufacturer has a global strategy, ranging from neutral fuels to hydrogen as well as hybrid and electric vehicles.

The letter states that hydrogen mobility has failed. The ‘”scientists” cite several countries, including France, referring to Montpellier (where financial reasons alone led the city not to buy buses) and Pau, where buses are already running and operating. Apparently, these experts are unaware that Paris has the largest fleet of hydrogen-powered taxis in the world. The media who pick up on this without looking into the facts are just as guilty as these so-called experts.

Read Hydrogen Today, it’ll be more informative.

To keep up with the latest hydrogen news, updates and events in Europe, Asia around the world check out our page here.  

Article written by Laurent Meillaud and translated by Mariem Ben Tili

If you liked it, share it

About the author

Picture of Laurent Meillaud

Laurent Meillaud

Freelance automotive journalist and consultant, author as well, focused on technologies and new trends for more than 30 years, convinced that hydrogen is one of the energies for the future.

Our latest articles

interactive world map