“We, the Europeans”, on France 3, looks at hydrogen


The driver is nice. Particularly smiling and proud, at the wheel of his Hyundai truck which rolls, silent, without rejecting C02 in the air. A happy pioneer, Stefan Letterman has been driving one of the 47 hydrogen trucks tested in Switzerland for a year. Twelve months which allow him to draw up a first assessment, while, at the same time, the Swiss political voluntarism demonstrates its effectiveness here.

This report opens the weekly magazine “We, the Europeans” of France 3 devoted to hydrogen. It is true that Switzerland is a privileged place of experimentation for hydrogen trucks – which cost three times more to purchase and whose full tank is almost twice as expensive as with diesel.

Indeed, wishing to reduce road traffic, Switzerland struck hard at the end of the 1990s by introducing an annual tax of 100,000 euros per 100,000 kilometers on all heavy goods vehicles. A tactic that worked since 70% of this traffic disappeared. As for the remaining 30% – short trips, proximity – Switzerland has decided to completely exempt hydrogen trucks from taxes.

Read also In Switzerland, almost two-thirds of the tax on transit trucks finances rail projects

Extremely simple, the idea of ​​following the driver during a refueling allows you to project yourself into the future: the refueling is done in “kilos” and is paid “12 euros per kilo”. However, the report does not avoid the drawbacks of hydrogen, citing the lack of autonomy (perfectible), the weak network of hydrogen stations (eight in Switzerland), fear (seven canisters of hydrogen are stored behind the driver ) and especially the production of hydrogen, not always “green”.

10,000 taxis by 2024

Indeed, if, in Switzerland, hydrogen is produced from electricity supplied by a hydraulic power station (therefore renewable energy), this is not the case in Germany, the second country visited in the report, where is experimented for a few months with a hydrogen train. There, the hydrogen is “gray”, that is to say produced from a gas power station, which tarnishes its overall carbon footprint.

The fact remains that train passengers praise the experience, since the journey is quieter, cleaner despite everything (by 40% according to the company expert interviewed) and not more expensive. And the French to rejoice, since it is the giant Alstom which is at the origin of this full-scale test, which mobilizes 2,300 workers.

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers Hydrogen, the new eldorado of French energy policy

While hydrogen could cover 25% of global energy needs in 2050, presenter Eléonore Gay takes over on stage to successively launch the three hexagonal subjects. In Auxerre (Yonne), which has the largest national hydrogen production site; in Bouin (Vendée), where three wind turbines produce carbon-free hydrogen; and in Paris, where the Hype hydrogen taxis (sky blue with light clouds), which have crisscrossed the capital for six years, wish to offer the municipality a fleet of 10,000 taxis for the 2024 Olympic Games!

Enthusiasm and experiments which prove that the energy transition has – finally – started in Europe. “We are in a period of adjustment, said to World Marc-Antoine Eyl-Mazzega, from the French Institute of International Relations, the day after the COP26 in Glasgow, but in ten years, practices and habits will have changed. “

Hydrogen, the energy revolution?, report by Hugues Huet and Steven PIchavent (Fr., 2021, 14 min). Broadcast on Sunday 5 December as part of the weekly magazine “Nous, les Européens”, presented by Eléonore Gay; rebroadcast Thursday, December 9 at midnight. Available in replay on Francetvinfo.fr.