Much discussed and even contested, the hydrogen car has found its admirers… Patrick Koller, CEO of Forvia (the new structure resulting from the takeover of Hella by Faurecia), has not minced his words, although he believes in this technology thought . For him, Symbio – a company specializing in fuel cells, founded in 2010 by Fabio Ferrari, which Michelin joined in 2014 before turning into a joint venture with Faurecia in 2019 – is “a jewel, a diamond to keep”.
issue of sovereignty
For Patrick Koller, the hydrogen car will compensate for the shortcomings of the battery-powered electric car. According to him, there are two types. The first concerns a sovereignty issue related to metal supplies. “We will move from an oil dependency to an even greater dependency on the metals of electrification »he replied to journalists during the presentation of Forvia’s half-year results. “90% of metal finishing is done in China. »he added. “We only need platinum, which can be recycled from catalysts » to manufacture fuel cells.
France is recognized for its mastery of the entire hydrogen technology value chain. Thus, in the automotive sector, the sector produces tanks (an essential and very expensive element to withstand the pressure), pressure relief valves and the fuel cell. Symbio has also just inaugurated a factory near Lyon that should make it possible to scale up the production of fuel cells on a large scale in order to reduce their unit price. The French hydrogen sector also includes hydrogen producers such as Air Liquide, but also EDF and Engie, which are investing heavily in green hydrogen production capacities. Finally, a start-up, Hopium, even wants to produce very high-quality hydrogen cars in order to complete a quasi-sovereign value chain. In addition, Forvia is not the only group interested in hydrogen in the automotive sector, as Plastic Omnium also operates in this niche.
For Patrick Koller, there is another big issue with the hydrogen car. According to him, this technology effectively solves the electric battery infrastructure problem. Motorway areas would have to be massively equipped with fast charging stations, up to 80 per filling station, he concluded. But the costs of this infrastructure are not borne by any economic model. “The investments required on the main axes are colossal to cover the needs of a few days a year. », says Patrick Koehler.
Hydrogen soon cheaper than the battery
Speaking of the economic model: the Forvia boss estimates that in 2030 he will be able to offer a complete hydrogen traction chain for a 100 kWh car (high range of electric cars currently on the market) for between 7,000 and 8,000 euros. “I don’t think battery technology will reach that price »he judged.
Patrick Koller recalls that he has multiplied the contracts and that his order book for the hydrogen activity has now reached 500 million euros. The agreement with Stellantis is an excellent opportunity to create an excellent opportunity, particularly in light commercial vehicles in Europe, but above all in American pickups, the most profitable segment of the market.
For Patrick Koller, the potential of this market is colossal. He’s thinking about how best to improve his « Jewel » Symbio, in particular through an IPO. The principle has not yet been decided.
A solution to decarbonize industry
Patrick Koller, who strongly believes in zero-carbon mobility (but not in 2035, contrary to the commitment adopted by the European Union), believes that hydrogen will be the real solution. However, he qualifies that the battery car has real arguments in many applications, especially urban mobility. But he goes beyond mobility issues, judging that hydrogen will provide an answer to industrial decarbonization and enable energy storage.
However, at the moment the automotive market is short of models. Only Toyota, Honda and Hyundai launched the first cars while waiting for the French hopium. But for Patrick Koller the first models will arrive at some point… Even Tesla will eventually get started, he wants to believe…