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1. Hydrogen vehicles – are they safe?

They are. Hydrogen vehicles are subject to European regulations governing the use of hydrogen (regulations CE 79/2009 and UE 406/2010) as well as international regulations governing the use of battery-operated electric vehicles (R100). Furthermore, the authorisation process for initial road use is identical to the process for all other vehicles, in accordance with the European directive 2007/46.

The main aspects ensuring the safety of the hydrogen system are as follows :
– 2 hydrogen air detectors, which trigger a system stoppage in the event of a leak
– an inertia sensor used to close the hydrogen tanks in the event of a road accident
– a decompression system (TPRD, Thermally Activated Pressure Relief Device), which is temperature activated in order to avoid the tank bursting in the event of a fire.

2. Where does the hydrogen used to supply the vehicles come from ?

Although hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, it is rarely found in its pure state in nature. Energy is required to separate it from other elements (oxygen, carbon, etc.) to which it is often linked. Currently, 95% of hydrogen is produced by reforming natural gas using water vapour, with natural gas simultaneously acting as a source of hydrogen and a source of energy (required for separation).

However, the French sector have taken steps to develop the production of hydrogen using water electrolysis (in this case, the source of hydrogen is water and the source of energy is electricity). While the latter is, in reality, more expensive, the official French and European objectives regarding the development of renewable energy should result in it being the preferred option. In fact, the production of hydrogen through electrolysis is extremely flexible: it can easily be adapted to fluctuations in the production of renewable energy (solar, wind, hydraulic) and benefits from highly advantageous production tariffs.

3. Why develop hydrogen electric transport? Don’t we already have battery-operated electric vehicles ?

These two types of vehicles meet separate needs, rendering them complimentary. As a result of their autonomy and their recharge time (between 20 minutes – using a super charger, of which there are currently very few – and 8 hours), battery-operated vehicles are suitable for frequent, relatively low-intensity use in urban environments (in cases where it is not necessary to travel more than 120 kilometres in a single day, for example, outside of exceptional circumstances). For drivers who use their vehicles in a more high-intensity manner and who are not able to wait to reach a recharge terminal, hydrogen electric vehicles are the right solution.

4. How much does a hydrogen car cost ?

It is necessary to distinguish between two different types of hydrogen cars: those that operate at 100% hydrogen and battery/hydrogen hybrids. The first type (such as the Mirai from Toyota or the ix35 from Hyundai) are highly expensive given that, aside from the low production volumes, they can only be recharged with hydrogen (sold at stations for between 10 and 12 euros a kg, corresponding to 100 km). The second type are roughly 20% more expensive than their battery-only equivalents.

– The prices are set to drop: with the anticipated increase in production capacities, the price of 100% hydrogen vehicles should drop from €70,000 today to €50,000 in 2020 and to €30,000 in 2023. At equivalent production quantities (+500,000 vehicles/year), a hydrogen vehicle will cost less than a de-polluted diesel vehicle.
– Aside from purchasing costs, usage costs are a determining factor. However, in this respect, hybrid battery/hydrogen electric vehicles are the equivalent to 100% battery vehicles. The fact that they can be recharged on the network helps offset the current additional cost of hydrogen, all the while offering enhanced ease of use.

5. How much does a full tank of hydrogen cost ?

Although the price of hydrogen is still high (10 euros a kilogram excluding tax, over 100 km), it is more relevant to refer to “price per 100 kilometres” than “the price of a full tank” when making a comparison between vehicles. Based on this criterion, battery/hydrogen hybrids equipped with Symbio solutions are less expensive than their diesel equivalents. The Kangoo ZE H2, for example, covers 100 kiolmetres for a cost somewhere between 3.3 and 5.5 euros (depending on use) compared to a bit more than 8 euros for its diesel equivalent. The explanation for this is simple: users of electric/hydrogen hybrid vehicles carry out part of their journeys using electricity and take advantage of the extremely low cost of electricity (2 euros per 100 km).

6. Are there enough recharge stations to be able to use hydrogen vehicles in France ?

Not yet See map

However, a deployment plan has been outlined by the hydrogen sector in France that will see the entire country covered by 2030. As it stands, stations have been installed where customers want to use hydrogen vehicles, given that the more vehicles there are, the cheaper hydrogen will be.

7. There already are biofuels which help retain enhanced comfort of use for vehicles. Why switch to hydrogen ?

The main benefit is that it will improve air quality. In terms of pollution (NOx and particles), the results from first generation biofuels (adding ethanol from cereals or sugar plants to SP95 or SP95-E10 super-fuels and adding biodiesel to regular diesel) were poor. Accordingly, engine technologies were retained, and the chemical composition was close to that of traditional fuels. In 2011, a report presented by the British environment minister revealed the mixed results with regards to the effects of biofuel and bioethanol on air quality. The introduction of advanced or so-called 2nd generation (G2) biofuels, from lignocellulosic biomass, will not have a significant impact on this state of affairs.
The results with regards to greenhouse gas emissions are inconclusive. These biofuels will satisfy the objectives of the renewable energy directive (2009/28 CE) as far as this matter is concerned (-60% emissions from 1st January 2018 onwards). The only problem is that this result does not take into account the changes to how soils are used in relation to the development of biofuels.

8. Are hydrogen vehicles also zero emissions when you analyse their life cycle ?

No, but the rules to which all factories are subject help cut emissions. Aside from this, switching from hydrogen production using natural gas to production via electrolysis will help cut all pollutants – the factory will only emit heat and oxygen.
Above all, there is no pollution where hydrogen vehicles are used, something which is not the case with combustion engines.

9. How are hydrogen batteries recycled ?

Hydrogen batteries are primarily comprised of steel, a fluorinated protonic membrane and a small amount of platinum. Given that platinum was valued at roughly €30,000 a tonne in 2017, the recycling rate for manufacturers (such as Umicore) is roughly 95%. There is a recognised recycling circuit in place for catalytic converters.

10. What is the lifespan of hydrogen batteries produced by Symbio ?

Symbio batteries and systems are expected to have a lifespan equivalent to that of the vehicles using them. For the Kangoo ZE H2, this is a minimum of 10 years and 300,000 km.

11. Can the battery be replaced once it has reached its limits without needing to change the vehicle ?

Yes, Symbio systems are fully detachable. The vehicle can even continue to function without the hydrogen system.

12. Where does the name “Symbio” come from ?

Symbio was conceived in order to demonstrate a symbiosis between transport, synonymous with freedom for humans, and nature.