Recently, the Detroit Regional Partnership and Business France hosted a webinar focused on hydrogen and mobility. The event gave French hydrogen mobility companies a space to pitch their technologies, while Michigan was able to present itself as the optimal location for these companies to do business. Within this webinar, several clear themes emerged.

Hydrogen isn’t as far along as battery electric

By the end of 2021, there will be around 25 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) for sale in the U.S. For hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), however, that number will likely stick at the current three on sale now. BEVs got the jump on FCEVs in passenger vehicles and the companies that presented acknowledge that. But rather than give up, these French companies are positioning themselves as leaders in an industry that’s just now emerging.

Hydrogen shows more promise in heavy duty vehicles

While BEVs can provide an effective form of daily transportation for most people, battery packs are difficult to scale up to larger vehicles. To get anywhere near the range of a traditional diesel semi-truck, the battery packs must be massive in size, weight and price. Plus, the manufacturing of batteries this large is inefficient and wasteful of resources, companies argued.

Hydrogen, on the other hand, can reduce emissions similarly to BEV trucks with far less weight and the refueling speed of an internal-combustion powered truck. The same goes for other heavy-duty vehicles such as construction equipment, buses or garbage trucks.

Many companies that presented at the webinar saw an opportunity in this space. Gaussin is developing a range of modular skateboard FCEV chassis that can be scaled across a variety of heavy-duty vehicles. Supplier Plastic Omnium is busy developing hydrogen fuel tank casings with their plastics expertise. And Sherpa Engineering is outsourcing systems testing and engineering to help companies bring their FCEV products to market.

But first, we need to make hydrogen sustainably

One of the biggest issues holding hydrogen mobility back from mainstream success is the hydrogen fuel itself. The still-underdeveloped electric charging network is years ahead of hydrogen, but the infrastructure issues go deeper yet. Hydrogen is highly energy-intensive to produce and it’s tough to create it in an environmentally friendly way.

Two companies at the Business France webinar presented their plan to make that happen. First, Lhyfe aims to use renewable resources to produce hydrogen with zero carbon emissions. They’ve also devised a local distribution system, employing local regions and shortening transport networks.

Haffner Energy presented a similar hydrogen production model under the sub-brand HYNOCA. They plan to use leftover biomass to produce hydrogen, thus proposing a carbon negative solution. Like Lhyfe, HYONCA plans to roll out localized production plants and distribution networks.

France and Detroit are clear partners in the hydrogen industry

It’s clear France is positioning themselves as a leader in hydrogen production and mobility offerings. But Detroit is the optimal place for these companies to extend internationally. During the webinar, State of Michigan Chief Mobility Officer Trevor Pawl discussed how the environmentally friendly, forward-thinking companies in France fit with Michigan’s climate and mobility initiatives over the next 10-20 years. He also covered the immense manufacturing potential and expertise these companies have available in the Detroit region.

Michigan’s automotive expertise is shifting towards a sustainable future. The Business France webinar showed how international companies that align with that have a mobility partner in Detroit for years to come.