A French company is selling hydrogen bicycles, a world first. What are the advantages compared to their lithium battery cousins?
It’s rocket fuel! Considered today to replace fossil fuels in aeronautics or automobiles, hydrogen is now being used to power bicycles of a new kind. Pragma, a company specializing in the construction of hydrogen fuel cells, has been working since 2013 to produce hydrogen bicycles. Based in Biarritz, it is the only one in the world that manufactures and sells this type of bicycle.
Belonging to the family of electric vehicles, hydrogen bicycles differ from conventional two-wheelers that are assisted by electricity in the way that energy is generated. There is no battery, but a fuel cell that converts hydrogen stored in a tank placed under the handlebars into electricity. No greenhouse gas is released into the atmosphere, just a few drops of water and a little heat.
Despite its weight of 30 kg, the bicycle can reach 25 kilometers per hour without forcing it and can travel about 150 kilometers on a single charge, which is in the high average range of bicycles with batteries. But unlike this, recharging is very fast: the hydrogen tank can be filled in just two minutes at a suitable terminal, compared to several hours of charging for lithium batteries.
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The hydrogen bike is also more ecological than its cousin equipped with lithium batteries: the life of the fuel cell is three times longer than the batteries, it is better recycled and has 1000 times less rare metals. A low environmental impact therefore, when green hydrogen is used, i.e. produced without fossil energy. And this is the problem: the production of most hydrogen today uses natural gas and uses processes that are sometimes polluting. A situation that the French government wants to change thanks to an investment plan of almost 9 billion euros for the production of carbon-free hydrogen by 2030.
” I’m always told about hydrogen as the energy of the future when in fact it can work today “, assures Pierre Forte, president and founder of Pragma, a company specializing in hydrogen fuel cells that has been selling hydrogen bicycles since 2017. Currently, the “Alpha neo”, the second generation of bicycle, available for rent this summer from about ten rental companies in France with charging terminals, such as Azay-le-Rideau in Indre-et-Loire, Aix-les -Bains in Savoie or Porticcio in Corsica.” We have had great feedback from rental companies that have ordered a fleet of our bikes. Today many are struggling to manage the batteries in their fleet of electric bikes. You tend to put them all to charge at the same time in the middle of the day, and some should be left half empty. Charging hydrogen bikes is faster and therefore easier to organize “, he pleaded.
Available for long term rental in 2023
The third generation of bicycles with improved autonomy and longevity should be sold by the company in 2023, which wants to offer them for long-term rental from individuals. ” We plan to install a network of charging stations next year in Montpellier, Toulouse, Nantes, Bordeaux and south of Paris. “said the founding president. Individuals can buy a model (about €5,000) or subscribe to a long-term lease (€89 per month for a 4-year lease with maintenance included and no limited hydrogen at the terminals).
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