Eric Baleviez is the Commercial and Services Director at Safra. After 30 years of experience in urban mobility, first as a user (operator) and then as an electric vehicle manufacturer, Eric decided to join the hydrogen sector at Safra.
Originally, Safra was a bodywork company that gradually shifted towards vehicle renovation. The desire to extend the lifespan of vehicles has been part of the company's DNA since the beginning.
In 2011, the current President, who was then an engineer, Vincent Lemaire, decided to embark on the great adventure of building electric and then hydrogen buses. After an initial Businova, which was very groundbreaking for its time, they switched to "bus start-up" mode to design and build vehicles that meet high standards in terms of safety, performance, equipment, and certification.
Today, they have also integrated Retrofit activity into their range. It was a logical progression to combine their expertise in renovation and hydrogen innovation.
Our first hydrogen Businova was designed by only about ten people! It was the starting point of the great story that we writing now.
Today, there are about 20,000 buses running in France. Among them, 35 run on hydrogen, including 23 from Safra. It's a great source of pride!
Throughout my career, I realized that the way hydrogen vehicles are manufactured and sold needs to be revised to reduce their cost of ownership. A hydrogen vehicle costs more to buy than a diesel vehicle, but in the long run, you can play with technical elements or operating methods to reduce overall costs.
That's how I switched to the manufacturing side.
And then, I fell in love with Safra's story, a French, human-sized company with a strong desire to invigorate our territories. We are actually the only 100% French player since we carry out studies, design, and construction in France (we even use a French fuel cell).
Finally, I work with passionate people of all ages and experiences, which is very stimulating!
When you get into hydrogen, you often face many obstacles, whether they be financial or regulatory, for example, but also mentalities that are still skeptical about this energy vector. It's a daily struggle to move forward, step by step.
I also fight against an aging industrial environment, very routine, and full of historical rules.
With Safra and generally all hydrogen players, we try to shake things up! That's what drives us!
Hydrogen should be part of a mix and combined with other forms of mobility, such as electric, for example. Hydrogen won't solve all problems, but it's an essential key to the ecological transition, yes.
When I see how fast we are moving forward every day at Safra, I am hopeful that we will leave a great legacy of what we are building in 50 years. We have already laid the foundations, and the outlines of the puzzle, now we just have to put the pieces in the middle.
I think hydrogen contributes to addressing the major challenges of our time:
My first piece of advice is to evaluate whether hydrogen is really the right solution for your problem. For example, in passenger transport, it could be the perfect solution if you want to transport more people over longer distances.
My second piece of advice is to think in terms of an ecosystem. For example, if you want to switch to hydrogen and know that your product and service ranges will expand, then take advantage of that by converting other vehicles to hydrogen as well. This could include light utility vehicles. This allows you to use the production station for multiple purposes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Every hero has an extraordinary story – this is that of Thibault Léonard, an Engineer and Hydrogen Project Manager at Moviatech who has been in hydrogen since the start of his career.
As a car enthusiast, I did my studies at an automotive engineering school and specialised in new energies and the environment. Then, two years ago, I began my career at Moviatech on a hydrogen project.
My encounter with Moviatech. And particularly with Sylvain Jourdy, Moviatech’s CEO, who presented his project to me – it was his vision that inspired me!I was familiar with hydrogen, of course, and the prospects that this new technology was opening up for mobility. The internal combustion engine has reached its limits in terms of environmental acceptability. There are also battery electric vehicles, but if we want to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation, we must look to hydrogen.What interested me at Moviatech was the user-focused approach, doing whatever is necessary to facilitate uptake and lift barriers, which will enable hydrogen to be used by all.
The preconceived ideas and barriers associated with hydrogen. I try to spread the word and convey what I believe – hydrogen is usable as of now! Projects are underway; it is operational – we proved it by touring France in a hydrogen car in 2020.Some people don’t even know that hydrogen vehicles are already on the roads!Moviatech is therefore trying to do everything it can in terms of education, as the technology is still relatively unknown. You have to re-explain that the vehicles are electric, that hydrogen is stored as a gas, that it isn’t dangerous...
Moviatech is convinced that it is a solution of the future, for certain uses: heavy vehicles, long-distance journeys, ...The most important thing is really that the hydrogen be as green as possible, because the ultimate achievement is of course to use carbon-free hydrogen.
At Moviatech, we want to make life as easy as possible for hydrogen vehicle users and remove the constraints that can be involved in driving these vehicles. Hydrogen vehicles reproduce all the advantages of combustion engine vehicles (range, refuelling time) and battery electric vehicles (quiet, clean) but we must still simplify all the logistics involved in refuelling them.
In endurance car racing, we are already seeing great initiatives. Green GT is racing a hydrogen vehicle in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. GCK is going to take part in the Dakar Ralley with a hydrogen vehicle.To see a specialist race with exclusively hydrogen vehicles would be a really fantastic step.
Every hero has an extraordinary story – here is that of Hassen Rachedi, CEO and founder of HRS (Hydrogen Refueling Solutions), who has been working in the hydrogen field for five years.
I trained as a boiler maker and started my career doing temp work as a pipe fitter and foreman. After having been trained as account manager, in 2004, I decided to start my own business, at the time called TSM (Tuyauterie Service Maintenance), in the Grenoble area. The company became involved with hydrogen in 2008.
In 2008, I came across hydrogen when a major French operator asked me to build hydrogen filling stations, mainly composed of pipe work.Over ten years or so, we developed real know-how, to such an extent that in 2019, we changed our strategy to focus on developing turn-key stations incorporating design, installation and maintenance. TSM became Hydrogen Refueling Solutions and in February 2021, to take the venture further, we raised a record €97.3M on the Euronext Growth market to accelerate our development.
I am fighting FOR the well-being of my employees.So that they enjoy their day-to-day work and give their best, and that they make the most of life! I have introduced the four-day working week since 5 December 2022!
Electric mobility is likely to play an increasing role in the fight against climate change and air pollution, as it generates zero CO2 and particles emissions during use. Both the electric vehicle technologies developed and marketed by car manufacturers are important and must be combined: battery powered vehicles and hydrogen vehicles. I am convinced that hydrogen has a key role to play in energy transition. Green hydrogen will give us energy independence, as we can produce it, store it and use it on demand.Hydrogen makes perfect sense in the heavy transport field (trains, trucks, etc.) and for intensive uses (forklifts, taxis, etc.). In transportation, using hydrogen makes it possible to push the boundaries of battery-powered technologies and achieve better electric vehicle performance in terms of range (500 to 700 kilometres), charging time (5 minutes approximately) and vehicle space. This makes it a complementary solution to batteries for heavy vehicles and commercial fleets, which cover long distances, with intensive use, and need sufficient payload. The two technologies therefore needn’t compete with one another!Ultimately, what is important is to highlight that fuel cell vehicles will give consumers purchasing power with the kilo of hydrogen in 2023 estimated at €4 to €5 per kilo at the pump. Given that a private car carries 6 kilos for a range of 700 km, a full tank will be under €30.
The business was started in 2008 and initially we were hydrogen station integrators for a major operator.We are a pure player in hydrogen refuelling stations. We are dedicated to developing this product to produce it on a large scale and make hydrogen more accessible.With the arrival on the market of fuel cell vehicles, developing refuelling stations is a real need. Deployment of vehicles and stations needs to be synchronised. With our new production site, which will be delivered this year, still in the Grenoble area, we will triple our production capacity: 180 stations a year will be built, that’s the equivalent of all those installed in Europe in the last ten years!Research and development are also crucial aspects in our company. We have built a 2,000 sq. metre test zone and are involved in several major European projects for the development of our industry.
One with a great capacity for endurance! I would say Aquaman!
I would like to conclude with the word “cooperation”. In my view, this is key to the emergence of our industry. It is the cooperation between the various stakeholders of the hydrogen value chain (producers, manufacturers, equipment providers...) that will help create ecosystems and accelerate the deployment of our fuel chain.
Every hero has an extraordinary story – here is that of Nolwenn Belleguic, Deputy CEO and Head of HR and Communications at Lhyfe, who has been working in the hydrogen field for four years.
It was Matthieu Guesné, our CEO, with whom I had the good fortune to found Lhyfe. At the time, I wasn’t really familiar with hydrogen, but, like him, I was ready to fight for the future of my children. His project, his views on energy, his courage and his optimism immediately won me over. Four years later, I am more involved than ever in a real battle to at last make way for a clean and virtuous energy model, using hydrogen in particular.
Our role is extremely important. Hydrogen is still little or poorly understood while the role it can play in energy transition is substantial. So it is up to us to make this new topic accessible and understandable and do everything possible to enable the renewable hydrogen industry to develop massively and rapidly. Massively, because we absolutely must replace anything that generates CO2 emissions by clean solutions. Rapidly, because given the stakes, we need to act fast. Our work consists in explaining hydrogen and its uses in a simple manner so that everyone can become familiar with the topic, spread the word about it and become an agent of change. The more simple we make it to talk about, the more we will succeed in making it an everyday topic. Our task also consists in informing decision makers and the general public in an energy sector where greenwashing has become a game... Many operators make statements and promises but few REALLY undertake a total transition. At Lhyfe, we don’t just state our intentions; we act.
I am fighting against inertia, as we can change things as of today. We can revolutionise the energy model right now, thanks to all those that resolve to fight global warming, with those who are getting down to the job. Doing. Doing rather than talking. Not putting off doing things just because things take time – we must act now. It is a battle that we must all fight. Lhyfe is playing a part, as are all the “Heroes”.
Follow your intuition, listen to your gut feeling and TAKE THE PLUNGE!
It is already becoming the norm in some regions abroad. It is already the norm for hundreds of businesses which have understood what a difference hydrogen can make. It will be the norm, once and for all, when it is natural to fill up with hydrogen to go on holiday and drive proudly without polluting.
With a few drops of magic potion, I would replace all the oil platforms with renewable hydrogen production platforms.
Every hero has an extraordinary story - this is that of Peter Kuhn, a hydrogen business developer at Stellantis, who has been working in hydrogen since 2022.
I started my career 26 years ago at OPEL as a Transformation Engineer for utility vehicles.To begin with I wasn’t working with hydrogen, but with electric, to organise the commercial launch of electric utility vehicles in Germany. I then moved onto hydrogen technology and we discovered that it is a completely different story. My role today is to promote hydrogen and above all to accompany the creation of hydrogen ecosystems in Europe.
This is a technology which is powerful and at the same time silent and calm when you drive.I am really fascinated by the water cycle that it creates. It is a natural and clean element that is available everywhere (in the reasonable quantities which we need) and that we discharge at the end of the process. Of course, for this to really make sense, the hydrogen used must be produced using renewable resources.
The hydrogen project really means starting from zero with different game rules. Everything has to be reinvented, challenged and adapted. It is what we have been working on internally for several years and we are very far ahead, but we must now support this work externally – infrastructure must be developed, customer attitudes need changing... You need to believe in it and persuade and drive people!Thermal combustion engine models will be stopped in a few years, in 2028 at Opel, for example. Everyone knows it; now we must act.
Stellantis is the first manufacturer to make series production hydrogen utility vehicles in Europe and it started production in 2022. In 2024, we will start producing at the Hordain plant, where we today produce combustion engine (diesel) and electric (battery) vans.
I would bring everyone in line – the filling stations, vehicle manufacturers and green hydrogen producers – so that hydrogen becomes the norm.That would also significantly bring prices down so that more people could switch to this energy.
MacGyver. He’s smart and he always finds the right technical solution to things!
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