Based on the Norwegian experience with low-carbon vehicles, the authors analyse the hydrogen plan launched by Nicolas Hulot when he was Minister for Ecological and Solidarity Transition and make several recommendations.
The transition to clean mobility has two imperatives: at the global level the fight against climate change and at the regional level the fight against urban pollution, which results in premature death and numerous respiratory infections.
Norway’s experience with clean mobility, the most advanced country in this area, highlights several key factors for success: the importance of social awareness of the issues through a public policy involving large subsidies; the importance of public support for the deployment both of vehicles and of infrastructure; the risks of overly proactive national deployment in the absence of a strong technological and industrial base; and dependence on vehicle manufacturers’ international strategies.
The critical analysis of this experience lays the foundations for an optimal deployment economic model comprising three phases: take-off, powering up and cruising, with support policies adapted to each phase.
The deployment of hydrogen vehicles worldwide and manifestly in France is currently in the take-off phase, while battery powered electric vehicles are in the powering up phase. Different policies need to be implemented.
The plan for the deployment of hydrogen put forward by Nicolas Hulot in June 2018 can be interpreted in the light of this framework. Three recommendations emerge from this reading: (i) apart from light utility vehicles and taxi fleets, focus on buses, trucks, boats, and locomotives, where hydrogen now has a competitive advantage compared to battery use; (ii) consolidate the pilot projects and encourage their proliferation at a European level through coordination between major cities, since the interconnection between these areas can only be effective in the second stage; (iii) encourage R & D and investment for the production of carbon-free hydrogen, but using a CO2 benchmark price in cost-benefit analysis that goes well beyond the proposed value of €20/tCO2 so as to take advantage of experience and spread innovation.