Decarbonizing mobility with green hydrogen : what is the role of public authorities in hydrogen ecosystem constructions ?

May 9, 2023
Decarbonizing mobility with green hydrogen : what is the role of public authorities in hydrogen ecosystem constructions ?

When we talk about hydrogen, public actors have a central role to play in driving and supporting the process. We are talking about it today with Amaury Vaussanvin, co-founder of Synops Conseil, which helps communities begin their energy transition.

Lhyfe Heroes: “You provide local authorities with advice on decarbonizing mobility. Can we say that hydrogen is automatic? Is this still the right solution? »

Amaury:"No, it's not that simple. There are currently three valid alternatives with advantages and disadvantages:

1. Bio methane:

•Advantages: it has a good overall carbon footprint

•Disadvantages: it remains a fossil fuel, which emits greenhouse gases. It is considered that these gases have been avoided upstream and therefore that theoverall footprint is lower. But you should know that a vehicle running on biomethane still locally rejects the same particles and emissions as a thermal vehicle. Moreover, it will not be possible to produce biomethane on a massive scale because that would mean transforming agricultural land to produce this fuel. And even if we did, France does not have enough land to absorb all the necessary production.


•Advantages: there are no emissions released when the vehicle is in motion,which is clearly what urban areas are looking for

•Disadvantages: currently the electric does not respond to intensive or heavyuse, it is rather an excellent alternative for light use, city dwellers. In addition, there is an infrastructure problem with electricity: it is not sufficient for all these small uses. We need to multiply the charging stationsand we are not able to do it everywhere. And finally, we must not overlook the complexity of recycling batteries that use rare earths.

3.Renewable hydrogen:

•Advantages: hydrogen, due to its energy intensity, takes over from electricityfor heavy and intensive uses, such as 44-tonne trucks, public transport orwhich require power, such as tractors for example . What is also interestingcompared to electric is the very short charging time and autonomy which, beyondthe comfort of the driver, have an interesting impact on the design of theinfrastructure in a city. From an infrastructure point of view, what isinteresting is that hydrogen makes it possible to build local ecosystems: weproduce and consume on the same territory, which is a major change in ourenergy paradigm.

•Disadvantages: to make hydrogen, you need electricity and therefore the overall efficiency is a little worse than that of electricity. And, to date, the technologies are still in their infancy so there is complexity in operating these vehicles or stations, but that's normal, it was also the case with electric vehicles.


L.H.: “You talk about hydrogen ecosystems: can you describe how it works? »

A: An ecosystem is, in a given territory, the addition of:

- A renewable hydrogen production plant

- A semi-centralized distribution station

- Hydrogen end-users

Beyond the local design of the system, there is a very interesting change in the energy paradigm: we produce what we need. We reason by rationalizing energy and we goback to questioning our uses; it is in total opposition to the current system of abundance and it raises the question of sobriety.


L.H.: “How do we manage sobriety in transport? »

A: We haven't talked about it in the solutions previously, but sobriety is still thebest way to reduce the CO2 emitted. And we will be forced to do so because weare not able to replace all thermal vehicles with clean vehicles. To encourage sobriety, cities can take concrete actions:

- Give back a prominent place to active mobility with more cycle paths, more pedestrian areas. Today, our cities were designed for the car. Residential areas are far from commercial and tertiary activity areas, which does not always encourage such mobility.

- Propose are liable and dense public transport network. There are two interesting strategies today:

o Free networks to encourage the use of public transport

o Networks that continue to pay to finance the transition of their vehicles

- Implement regulatory constraints, such as Low Emission Zones. If they start with good attention, these constraints can exclude some from the energy transition.Today, unfortunately, not everyone can afford to make this transition and we must support as much as possible rather than imposing the transition by leaving it aside.

L.H.: “Do you have any ideas for making the transition to carbon-free mobility affordable? »

A: Helping with the purchase of vehicles, consolidating uses and distribution in a given area and above all ensuring that local authorities drive the approach. By ordering a few buses, a few hydrogen household waste dumpsters, they can launch an ecosystem that will then benefit small local economic players and even Mr.Everybody.

L.H.: “And then, what prevents communities from doing it? »

A: There are financial brakes, it requires significant investments that are not easy those days… and then it requires technical and technological skills that are still not very widespread in institutions.

L.H.: “In a perfect world, how can we move the energy transition forward more quickly? »

A: I find it interesting to link the public and the private. On the public side there isthis long time, these strategic decisions... and on the private side there is acapacity for investment and technological innovation that will make it possible, I am sure!

L.H. :“Finally, which hydrogen innovation do you like and give you hope? »

A: “The retrofit! I find it great and it allows you to switch from thermal vehicles tohydrogen for very different uses, not necessarily urban like agricultural tractors for example.

picture : guilherme-stecanella

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