As part of the SIA* (Société des Ingénieurs de l’Automobile) day dedicated to the hydrogen engine, a round table discussion provided an opportunity to compare the opinions of manufacturers.
In order to conclude a series of technical presentations, this panel brought together Nicolas Champetier from Stellantis, Joël Op de Beeck from Plastic Omnium, Nicolas Marie from John Deere and Bruno Jamet from the Pôle Véhicule du Futur. Overall, the players said that legislation was not the same in different parts of the world and that the H2 engine could be of interest in regions where electrification is not as advanced. There is no single solution, they highlighted.
As far as Europe is concerned, the regulations are still a bit unclear. Nevertheless, the hydrogen engine is now an option to consider. For Stellantis, the race is still open between the fuel cell and the H2 engine. “We don’t know yet who will win,” said Nicolas Champetier. He believes that the first vehicles could arrive around 2025/2026. Besides, he recalled that Hyundai plans to offer such engines in 2025. In the middle of the decade, the technology could therefore be used on pick-ups. For commercial vehicles, it will depend on the legislation. Trucks are also a candidate for this type of engine.
According to the speakers at the round table, we must now go beyond demonstrators. The same is true of John Deere, which is involved in agriculture and off-road vehicles. Borgwarner and Bosch are the most advanced, according to Nicolas Champetier. But the costs still have to be at the same level. Stellantis reckons it is better to start with technologies, even if they are not perfect, rather than waiting for a strict zero emission which would be unaffordable for customers. Volumes will be modest at first.
As a tank supplier, Plastic Omnium assures that integrating hydrogen into an H2-powered car would take up less space than the battery. It remains to be seen what the cost would be, said the Stellantis group.
Beyond the adaptation of engines, the main problem remains that of refueling stations, which do not exist. The Plastic Omnium representative mentioned the Benelux countries, where the chemical production sites generated a surplus of hydrogen that could be used for mobility. In Burgundy-Franche-Comté, it is possible to rely on both chemical sites and local ecosystems, highlighted the representative of the ‘Pôle Véhicule du Futur.’ Deploring the fact that there are only a few dozen public stations in France and that only a few hundred are planned in Europe, the Stellantis expert also finds many virtues in local ecosystems. He hopes that the price will eventually reach 5 euros per kilo.
The H2 engine clearly has a future, depending on the needs and the type of vehicles. But it will be necessary to achieve an acceptable TCO (total cost of ownership). The match is against the fuel cell as well as the battery.
*An association of French engineers, managers, technicians and automotive professionals working in the automotive sector in France.
To learn more about this day organised by the SIA, see our last two articles on the subject here and there.
Article written by Laurent Meillaud and translated by Logan King