“The hydrogen brick responds to the challenge of heavy motorization”

Dijon Métropole gives pride of place to hydrogen in its energy strategy. It relies on this gas to decarbonize its vehicle fleets. Details with Jean-Patrick Masson, vice-president of the Métropole de Dijon.

Jean-Patrick Masson
Vice-president of the Dijon Metropolis

News-Environment: What place does hydrogen occupy in the energy strategy of the Métropole de Dijon?

Jean-Patrick Masson : Hydrogen is an energy vector closely linked to the production of renewable energies (ENR). It has the virtue of storing ENR when they are under-consumed. In addition, we absolutely need to reduce carbon emissions in terms of mobility. The usual answer is battery electric vehicles, but they cannot meet all uses.

At the Métropole de Dijon, we are banking on hydrogen for our captive fleets, such as household refuse collection vehicles (BOM) and buses. We have perfect control of the operation of these fleets, so we can convert them to hydrogen. Major advantage: unlike electricity, we don’t change anything in the way we manage our fleets – availability, organization of work, use – compared to the current situation.

— AE : What project are you putting in place concerning household refuse collection vehicles?

JPM : In reflection since 2019, our project is designed on a circular system. The incineration of our waste will produce electricity which will power an electrolyser for the production of hydrogen fuel for our dumpsters.

We have chosen hydrogen because we see several technical advantages in it compared to electric motorization. In electric, the batteries are very heavy and take up space. The capacity of the BOMs is reduced, as is their autonomy, which requires a complete review of waste collection rounds, or even an increase in the number of vehicles required. A truck can only do 200 to 250 km with a battery, with a limited gross vehicle weight. To collect the same district, it would therefore be necessary to have more vehicles.

The hydrogen service station for our BOMs is under construction in the north of the metropolis, near the incinerator. The trucks will come and unload the waste and recharge with hydrogen. It will be equipped with a 1 MW electrolyser and will be ready next summer. It will have a daily production capacity of 440 kg of hydrogen, which could eventually double with the construction of an extension. We will soon receive the first two hydrogen BOMs out of the eight expected for a current fleet of 44 BOMs. The supplier is E-Trucks, the only one in Europe to supply this type of vehicle. A hydrogen BOM is three times more expensive than a Diesel and 1.5 times more than electric.

— AE : And what about the hydrogen bus project?

JPM : This second fleet will have its service station in the south of the Metropolis. It will be ready in 2024 for a daily production of 880 kg. A capacity that could be tripled over time and supplied by a 12 ha photovoltaic power plant. During this time, we will begin the purchase of hydrogen buses. We have 180 to convert in total. We therefore launched an initial call for tenders for 27 buses and, unlike the BOMs, there is competition, with prices globally twice as high as a Diesel bus. For this second site, we did not opt ​​for a classic service station where each bus would line up to refuel. We have chosen to equip each place in the bus center with a hydrogen dispenser. It’s a first !

— AE : What governance have you opted for and what economic model are you aiming for on this project?

JPM : Buses and dumpsters belong to the Métropole. We are also the producer of electricity (management) via the incinerator and we are shareholders in the company that will manage the production of hydrogen and its distribution. To carry out this project, Dijon Métropole has in fact joined forces with the local group Rougeot Énergie to develop a real production system, by creating the joint venture Dijon Métropole Smart Energy (DMSE). In January 2021, Storengy, a subsidiary of Engie, specialist in gas storage and the development of renewable gases, entered the capital of DMSE.

This project will require 100 million euros of investment and we are aiming for hydrogen production at a target price of 8 to 12 euros per kilo. The great difficulty of this case is to have an adequacy between production and consumption. We estimate that the economic equilibrium of our project will be reached in 2026 when the entire BOM fleet and 45% of our buses will be converted. It will then be necessary to decide whether or not to go towards 100% hydrogen by 2030. The context of the rising price of all energies will undoubtedly influence the project. Diesel is certainly increasing, but so is green electricity…

— AE : Are you confident in the future of hydrogen and your project?

JPM : Our logic is to bet on energies in short circuits, which we have on the territory. Hydrogen fits in there. We are convinced of this, it is a brick that meets the challenge of clean motorization, especially since an important element must be taken into account in 2025: we must green our fleets. Knowing that a BOM or a bus has a lifespan of ten years, it is necessary to separate quickly from the Diesel.

Article published on May 11, 2022