Elisabeth Ausimour - Manitou Group

President of the Products division

Every hero has an extraordinary story – this is that of Elisabeth Ausimour, President of the Products division at Manitou Group, which added the “hydrogen” string to its bow two years ago.

What is your role today at Manitou?

I am in charge of all products developed by the Group (telehandlers, aerial work platforms, forklifts, loaders...). We naturally have a large diesel range, but we have very strong ambitions for electric and, since two years ago, hydrogen is now also part of our strategy to offer a complete zero-emissions range.

Peter Parker became Spiderman after a bite by a radioactive spider; what bit you with hydrogen?

It was our very strong CSR commitments that put us on the hydrogen trail. Under this policy, switching our transmission systems to electric and hydrogen have become priorities for us. We see hydrogen as an incredible opportunity, as this energy carrier offers an answer to two performance issues for our machines and handling vehicles – that of power and range.For me, what is also really interesting with this energy is the systemic approach that can be developed around it. We can be green and virtuous from end to end and act locally. Lhyfe produces green and renewable hydrogen, our customers use it locally and the only vehicle emissions are water! This is how we are working today near the first production site in Bouin with our first prototype hydrogen-powered telehandler.

What is your goal where hydrogen is concerned?

At Manitou Group, the aim is for over 40% of products sold to be zero emission in 2030. We are already well on our way to achieving our ambition, as in 2022, the share of zero-emission vehicles already accounted for more than 10% of our sales.With hydrogen, we will be focusing in particular on offering relevant solutions to the construction market. As soon as it becomes law to have a certain share of electric vehicles in towns and cities, I can quickly see residents wanting greener and quieter construction sites. The advantage is that, with hydrogen, the combination of power and range will be real strengths for site operators.  Personally, I am convinced that hydrogen is the cleanest energy possible! But I still need to convince a lot of people... And we also need to explain that not all uses can be covered by hydrogen. For example, farmers will perhaps turn first to biofuels as it will be difficult to access hydrogen in rural areas at the beginning.

Batman has the Joker, Peter Pan has Captain Hook … what are you fighting against day-to-day?

We are fighting a battle against time – we must progress quickly towards this energy transition. We want to be pioneers but the technologies are not always ready and customers aren’t either. It is a real challenge as we are trying to introduce these offerings quickly with all of the hydrogen ecosystem (vehicles + stations + H20), even though the technologies are not market-ready today.  

Why is your business a pioneer in its field?

Being a pioneer has been somewhat in our culture since the company was founded 60 years ago. We invented the first masted forklift and then we invented the telehandler. We were also the first Toyota distributors in Europe and we have had a CSR policy for 13 years already, which has won us several awards.

If you had a super power, what would it be?

I would make two wishes to make hydrogen more accessible:* For the distribution network to be accessible to all – that is really the challenge if we want to bring green hydrogen to our machines and our clients.* To make the technology cheaper. I know that the CEA is researching the topic but you have to face the fact that today hydrogen is not yet a mass market and the products are expensive even though we would like it to be available to all.

In conclusion?

I think that hydrogen is one of the major transformations of our industrial era. A change is taking place that we absolutely must not miss and that is why we are investing enormously. And I am very proud to be writing this new chapter with my teams!

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