Where does hydrogen energy stand in France and the rest of the world?
In France, local authorities are very engaged and many initiatives are appearing in the transport sector. In Paris, the company STEP* deploys a fleet of hydrogen-powered electric taxis with the support of the Paris City Council. Air Liquide is taking part in this initiative as a minority shareholder in STEP and as an industrial partner installing the network of stations and promoting this energy with car manufacturers. A new charging station was just opened in Orly airport, which will be followed by another near Versailles, bringing in the first instance the number of stations in the Paris region to a total of three. I would also mention the Jules-Verne 2 in Nantes, a hydrogen-powered passenger boat serving as a river shuttle, or the HyWay project in Rhône-Alpes which involves a fleet of hydrogen-powered Kangoo ZE and some charging stations deployed by Air Liquide for municipalities as well as individual use. Elsewhere in the world, Japan, whose government has the stated goal of building a hydrogen society, the State of California in the US, and Germany are particularly advanced and already developing networks of charging stations. Hydrogen energy is a solution that is increasingly used by companies that operate forklift fleets. Some examples of customers who put their trust in Air Liquide, in France and in the United States, are Ikea, Walmart, Coca-Cola and Amazon.
How do you build a profitable economic model for this energy?
We think that the best approach is to deploy the solutions for mobility but also the energy uses, especially for professional uses. Thus, by playing on scale effects, we will be able to ensure more rapid profitability for the activity. Today in France this mainly takes place via captive fleet programs: company cars, buses, taxis, etc.
What is Air Liquide’s role in promoting this energy?
For more than 20 years, Air Liquide has been a major player in the development of hydrogen energy. Recently, the Group launched with Toyota the Hydrogen Council, which brings together 27 global players to present a united front and convince policy makers and investors of the sector’s potential. The Group wants to raise awareness of the issues surrounding hydrogen energy among new audiences, in particular via social networks: on Facebook, the “cH2ange” community, created by Air Liquide a few months ago, aims at moving the debate forward collectively, acting for society’s general interest. There are already 15,000 followers discussing the topic each day!
* Société du Taxi Electrique Parisien (“Parisian Electric Taxi Company”)