Plastic Omnium amasses orders in hydrogen
During a meeting with the media, the leaders of the automotive supplier took stock of their hydrogen strategy. The orders are there, with a market that is structured equally between Europe, the United States and Asia. Though the latter two are progressing much faster than the former.
The hydrogen car was being talked about this morning. And Marc Perraudin, the head of the new energies division at Plastic Omnium, did not fail to allude to the documentary made by Hugo Clément and broadcast on France 5 last night*. We never said that the hydrogen car was going to replace all internal combustion engine cars, nor that we had to cover the France with solar panels,” he said as a foreword. On a more serious note, Plastic Omnium is part of the suppliers who believe that hydrogen cars have a future, even if their share will be limited. Orders in this field represent only 1% to date, but mass production is expected to start in 2028 for large SUV-type vehicles. By 2030, the equipment manufacturer believes that hydrogen mobility will represent 2% of new vehicles sales, including 35% of cars and 65% of commercial vehicles (buses, trucks).
Costs will fall
By this time, Plastic Omnium reckons that costs will have been reduced to 7,000€ for the car (2,000€ for storage, 5,000€ for the fuel cell) and 70,000€ for the truck. These costs in USD respectively represent about $7,550 (car), $2,150 (storage), 5,400$ (fuel cell) and 75,500$ (truck). Hydrogen will therefore be competitive, taking its place in the mix of zero-emission vehicles, alongside the battery. It is forecast that the latter will represent the preferred solution when it comes to cars. However, Plastic Omnium thinks that the combustion engine will still survive for some time.
Plastic Omnium receives a mega-order from the United States
“What is changing is that we are adding a zero for new orders every year,” said Marc Perraudin, while Laurent Favre, the CEO of Plastic Omnium, nodded in agreement. To date, Plastic Omnium has received orders for hydrogen worth €4 billion (about $4.3 billion). These include a €2.4 billion contract with a US customer (around $2.6 billion). This mega-order is for tanks that are to be fitted into pick-up trucks.
During the press briefing, Laurent Favre and Marc Perraudin emphasised the dynamism of the American market. Thanks to the IRA (Inflation Reduction Act), manufacturers are attracted by the subsidies. And Plastic Omnium intends to take advantage of this windfall to set up a second tank factory in the USA. Its first site being destined to Ford in Michigan, within the framework of a programme aimed at adapting pick-ups. “The Big Three (the three historic American manufacturers) have announced their intention to switch to hydrogen for pick-ups,” said Laurent Favre. And if until now, Plastic Omnium was receiving orders for volumes of 10,000 units per year with customers such as Hyvia or Stellantis in Europe, the company will now have to equip several tens of thousands of vehicles.
Hydrogen trucks have a big potential
Another outlet would be trucks. While Daimler Truck and Volvo Group have already confirmed their intention to launch hydrogen-powered trucks before 2030, it is now Traton** Group’s turn to diversify, while waiting for others. A duel is brewing with battery-powered trucks, driven by Tesla and a few other competitors, but Plastic Omnium thinks it has made the right choice by focusing*** on hydrogen. The company has a new 150-kW fuel cell, of which two units can be integrated to provide sufficient power for trucks.
Plastic Omnium is in the running for other markets
Another potential market is retrofitting, of buses for example. An agreement has been concluded between Safra and Plastic Omnium in this respect (see our article). And the equipment manufacturer can also use its technologies in trains. i.e. the fuel cell within the framework of its EKPO joint venture with ElringKlinger as well as tanks. As a partner of Alstom-Bombardier, Plastic Omnium is pleased to see that more and more manufacturers are interested in hydrogen for regional transport on non-electrified lines.
*The documentary, entitled “will the hydrogen car save us” was quite a hit in France with over a million views when broadcast. Unfortunately, it spread some mistruths and leaps about the hydrogen sector.
**A Volkswagen subsidiary, owning the Scania and MAN brands
***In total, Plastic Omnium has invested 376 million euros (about $405 million). It means to keep spending 100 million per year (about $108 million). It is to be noted that orders are doubling every year and that the objective is to earn 3 billion per year in hydrogen from 2030.
Article written by Laurent Meillaud and translated by Logan King